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Blueberry Importers, Growers Argue Against Safeguards, Form Coalition

Blueberry growers, importers and distributors have formed a trade group called The Blueberry Coalition for Progress & Health to argue that there should not be tariffs or quotas on imported blueberries. In a Jan. 6 press release, the group said that 80% of imported fresh blueberries enter either before U.S. production begins in earnest in late April or after it peters out in early September. They said that even though there is some U.S. production competing with imports, even Georgia only sells 10% of its crop before that peak period. But Florida competes most directly with Mexican imports, and Florida representatives had pushed for trade remedies to protect them (see 2009020016). The International Trade Commission will hear from those for and against trade restrictions on blueberries on Jan. 12.

“The domestic industry has earned double-digit operating margins in every year of the time period included within the United States International Trade Commission (ITC) investigation, which compares favorably to broader farm industry benchmarks,” said Joe Barsi, president of California Giant Farms of Watsonville, California, and a leading member of the new coalition.

Dave Jackson, co-owner of Family Tree Farms and another key member of the coalition, said: “Our family has been farming in America for over 10 generations, and we are headquartered in the San Joaquin Valley in California. Our decision to farm in Mexico and Peru, in addition to the U.S., was in direct response from our retail customers to produce and deliver quality blueberries throughout the entire year.”