Blueberry growers were at odds at the most recent U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) hearing. The issue centers on the impact that imports are having on the U.S. industry. Two groups representing blueberry industry stakeholders provided testimony as to why prices have been down. The American Blueberry Growers Alliance (ABGA) points to rising imports from Latin American as pushing prices down for American producers.
“Because of booming domestic demand, we should be enjoying a market in which there is room for both domestic and foreign growers to profit,” Chairman of the ABGA Board of Directors, Jerome Crosby said in a news release. “However, foreign government policies targeting the United States market and large corporate import interests have combined to bring massive volumes of blueberries into our market, increasingly during periods that in the past provided growers with the bulk of their revenues and often all of their profits for the year.”
Several members of Congress also testified before the ITC in support of ABGA’s assertion that imports are the cause of low prices. The ITC is currently conducting an investigation into blueberries under Section 201 of the Trade Act of 1974. Over the past five years, blueberry imports have increased by 75 percent. The group has pointed out that imports from Mexico specifically have increased by 2,111 percent in the past 10 years. Blueberry growers appear to be divided on how imports have impacted prices for domestic producers.
The recently formed Blueberry Coalition for Progress and Health offered an alternative point of view during the hearing. The group points to increasing supply originating from Washington and Oregon as having the biggest impact on prices. Prior to the January 12 hearing, the coalition voiced concern about the investigation and how it will impact the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement. Several industry groups and lawmakers have sent letters to trade officials opposing the ITC investigation.