Pest treatment renders shipping organic to U.S. unfeasible

09/14/2010 04:02:58 PM
Jim Offner

Argentina has a growing organic blueberry sector, but it likely won’t see any profit in the U.S.

That’s because Argentina’s shippers have to treat their product for pests. That means fumigation, which renders the fruit unacceptable for certified organic sales in the U.S.

“We have organic production, but it can’t be brought into the U.S. because of fumigation. It’s a pity,” said Janice Honigberg, president of Sun Belle Inc., Washington, D.C.

“Our market for the organic blueberries is Canada.”

Canada has no such restriction.

Canada is a market that hungers for organic berries, said Bruce Turner, head of operations with Giumarra VBM International Berry LLC, Vernon, Calif.

“We do have organic production, and we have significant volume. A fair amount of it goes to Europe and the United Kingdom. We do have a pretty impressive program into Canada. We only fly direct-air without fumigation.”

The dearth of organics coming from Argentina to the U.S. likely will persist as long as the current rules remain as they are, said Brian Bocock, vice president of product management for the Grand Junction, Mich., office of Naturipe Farms LLC, Naples, Fla.

“Until they can eradicate the pests, the state of organics is very, very difficult, if not impossible,” he said.

If a way could be found to generate organic production for the U.S., it could mean big profits to Argentina growers, marketing agents say.

Bryan Ostlund, executive director of the Oregon Blueberry Commission, Salem, said the U.S. has a growing appetite for organic berries.

“Like all the rest of it, there’s really no benchmark for how high the whole thing is going to go, as far as the production side,” he said.



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