The United States is the world’s largest producer of blueberries. And this fruit, indigenous to North America, is beloved by American families. In fact, blueberries are among the fastest growing fruits in popularity among American consumers and are enjoyed for their health benefits, convenience and great taste. Additionally, the U.S. leads the world in research and innovation around blueberry production. This industry also supports family farms, provides jobs and reaps important economic benefits for communities.
Unfortunately, the American blueberry industry is threatened.
Blueberry imports to the U.S. have surged in recent years. Foreign exporters are targeting the U.S. blueberry market. A dramatic impact on the U.S. harvest period and extremely low import pricing has had a devastating impact on the domestic blueberry industry.
- Current prices for blueberries are lower than they have been in years;
- Thousands of workers across the country have been laid off or not rehired
- Scores of blueberry growers have gone out of business causing hardship on family farmers, economic harm to providers of packing and freezing services, and damage to the growers’ local communities and tax bases; and
- Grower profits have declined or vanished as prices have plummeted and blueberries have been left on bushes because it is uneconomic to harvest.
Blueberry imports have surged from a number of countries, especially Chile, Peru, Mexico, Argentina, and Canada, rising nearly 62 percent from 423 million pounds in 2015 to 684 million pounds in 2019. The blueberry market in these countries has been developed to expand exports to the United States rather than for domestic consumption. The large number of countries providing those exports indicates that a global solution is warranted and necessary to provide relief to the domestic blueberry industry.
The United States is already heavily dependent on imports for a variety of important food crops and failure to control the surge of blueberries threatens to sharply reduce the number of U.S. blueberry growers and the volume of U.S. blueberries produced. Not only do these imports threaten domestic businesses and livelihoods, they also expose U.S. consumers to products from countries with poor or inconsistent product safety records.
Section 201 Safeguard Investigation
The U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) initiated a global safeguard investigation into imports of fresh, chilled or frozen blueberries under Section 201 of the Trade Act of 1974. In its investigation, the ITC will determine if fresh, chilled or frozen blueberries are being imported into the United States in such increased quantities as to be “a substantial cause of serious injury, or the threat thereof” to domestic blueberry growers.
The American Blueberry Growers Alliance supports the Section 201 investigation. Much is at stake with numerous farms on the brink of folding. As a nation, our food security is a national security issue. And we cannot allow for our American blueberry farmers to go out of business.