BC’s several hundred blueberry farmers are relieved and elated after the US International Trade Commission announced that blueberry imports cause no harm to American growers.
The commission launched an investigation into global blueberry imports in response to a complaint filed in September by former US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer following a report on produce imports jointly authored by his office, the US Department of Agriculture and US Department of Commerce.
The report indicated that a dramatic rise in blueberry imports was causing economic damage to the US industry. The investigation raised concerns among BC blueberry growers that they could face limits on access to the US market.
But the USITC announced February 11 that it had determined that fresh, chilled and frozen blueberries are not being imported into the US in such increased quantities as to be a substantial cause of serious injury or a threat of serious injury to the domestic industry.
Growers, the BC Blueberry Council and the province have welcomed the decision.
“Now our members can focus on the growing year ahead, instead of being concerned with trade penalties,” says Jack Bates, chair of the BC Blueberry Council and a grower in Delta.
The council had budgeted significant funds for the challenge, which could have cost the Canadian industry upwards of $1.3 million if the USITC had determined imports were hurting US growers.
“The decision is highly welcomed. The farmers in BC were worried over the proposed tariff. It is a huge sigh of relief for us. This proposed tariff could have resulted in an adverse impact on the blueberry industry in BC. It’s a positive sign,” said Gurprit Brar, a farmer in Langley.
“We are relieved with the decision. The blueberry industry is already facing a lot of issues and if the tariff were imposed on Canadian berries, it would have forced the farmers to leave the industry,” said Harpal Singh, an Abbotsford grower.
Blueberries are grown on more than 27,100 acres across BC by approximately 800 growers.
Several segments of the US industry were also opposed to an investigation, with a group of 30 growers, packers, importers and retailers forming the Blueberry Coalition for Progress and Health to oppose limitations on trade, including import limits.
The united front is one Abbotsford grower Rajpal Singh believes could benefit the issue in future.
“The industry needs to be more united to face any such issues in future” he says.