Blueberry exports to China could change the rules of the game

While the pending decision of the International Trade Commission regarding the case of serious injury that imports have had against blueberry growers will be critical for Florida and Georgia growers, another marketing opportunity may be for growers to capitalize on the exports to China.

Greg Fonsah, an Agribusiness Extension economist at the University of Georgia, said during Friday's Agricultural Forecast meeting that there is a real opportunity for blueberry growers to capitalize on an export market, especially as Chinese consumption of blueberries has increased dramatically. ; from 28 million pounds in 2012 to 360 million pounds in 2018.

Historic agreement

Due to the Economic Trade Agreement between the US and China, the US was granted access to export blueberries to China, in May 2020.

“It is time for the United States to also penetrate that market and gain market share, especially in May 2020 when we had this agreement with the Chinese government,” Fonsah said. “It will be an opportunity for the US blueberry industry to start looking at the Chinese market and try to capture a large market share, just like Chile, Peru, Argentina and Mexico.”

Flooded market

The region's blueberry growers need all the market sources they can get right now. Increased domestic blueberry production combined with increased imports has flooded the US market. Unfortunately, when markets flood, prices plummet. This is a focal point of the American Blueberry Growers Alliance case before the International Trade Commission that a serious injury has occurred.

"The market has totally changed in 10 years, it has totally changed," Fonsah said. “We have also doubled production. The national production plus the imports that come from Mexico, guess what, we have flooded the market ”.

Imports from Latin America continue to be the main challenge for the production of blueberry growers in the southeast. From 2010 to 2019, Peru's export production to the United States soared from next to nothing to 140 million pounds. Mexico's production soared to nearly 80 million pounds, according to the US Department of Commerce's Census Bureau.

Mexico's exports shot up to around 23 million pounds in April 2020 compared to 16 million in 2019 and 13 million in 2018.

The national FOB price (freight on board) in October 2010 approached $ 35 per floor. In September 2019, the price plummeted to $ 15 per apartment, according to the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service.

"Mexico's huge production and domestic production has helped flood the US market and helped depress prices," Fonsah reiterated.

U.S. fresh market blueberry production increased from about 250 million pounds in 2010 to about 370 million pounds in 2019, according to the USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service.

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