Big imports from Mexico have threatened the economic viability of Florida and Georgia blueberry growers, Southeast U.S. industry leaders say.
Blueberry growers in Florida and Georgia are asking that seasonal trade protection provisions be included in any redone North American Free Trade Agreement, according to a news release.
A May 1 letter from the Florida Blueberry Growers Association and the Georgia Blueberry Growers Association to members of Congress outlined their concerns.
“The Florida and Georgia Blueberry industries have experienced growth and stability in the recent past, however the competitive disadvantage with the large volumes of low priced fruit have resulted in a collapsing market, and continual and rapid decline in pricing,” Brittany Lee, president of the Florida Blueberry Growers Association, said in the release.
So far this season, the release said Mexico has shipped 43.5 million pounds of fresh blueberries to the U.S., while Florida and Georgia growers have produced about half of that, according to the letter to members of Congress.
The letter said “massive imports of Mexican blueberries during our window are crippling the Florida and Georgia blueberry industries.” Signed by Lee and Brandon Wade, Georgia Blueberry Growers Association president, the letter said Mexico’s lower labor and growing costs put Southeast U.S. growers at a disadvantage. “To add insult to injury, a USDA variety (biloxi), paid for by U.S. tax dollars at no cost to Mexican growers is the most widely planted variety,” the letter said.
“We applaud the administration’s commitment to renegotiating with Mexico and Canada, and hope that considerations will be made that will help protect our blueberry industry in the Southeast — the viability of our industry is at stake,” the letter concluded.