The Packer’s Editor Tom Karst spoke with Driscoll’s president Soren Bjorn about the issue of seasonal trade protection for U.S. blueberry growers.
Bjorn talked about the explosive rise of blueberry retail sales over the last 20 years, which he said was fed by the rise of imports as well as growing domestic output.
Not that long ago, Bjorn said blueberries were only in good supply from May through August in the U.S.
Berries were gone from the market in the middle of winter, and the spring and the fall were also without significant blueberry supply.
“Every berry company that was in the business was looking at the same chart and said, ‘We have to do something about this,’” he said.
Bjorn talks about subsequent growth in output from Florida, Chile, Argentina and eventually Peru and Mexico.
“I think one perspective on the potential of putting up trade barriers is that you really punishing the people that went out and innovated and, and and drove the progress for the whole industry,” he said.
Bjorn talked about alternatives to quotas and tariffs that could help U.S. blueberry growers. For example, the U.S. government could fund research on innovation to help blueberry growers increase yields and become more competitive.
“I don’t see how a quota or duties help solves (the problem); you are just taxing the imports and sending that money to the Treasury Department,” he said. “You are better off going to the USDA and saying, How about a little bit of help?”