Demand for blueberries and strawberries in the US has increased in recent years, and so has fierce competition to the domestic market. A new report from USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS) analyzes the numbers from 2000–2020 to reveal the changing landscape of US strawberry and blueberry markets.
While the US exports some fresh blueberries, it’s become a net importer. Fresh highbush blueberries imports increased from 44 million pounds in 2000–02, to 450 million pounds in 2018-20, accounting for about 62% of the domestic fresh blueberry disappearance.
High prices for fresh market blueberries encouraged growth in global production, according to the report, which noted “US growers adopted new cultivars and production practices to extend their season, and imports increased to supplement supplies during those months.”
US demand for organic blueberries grew rapidly between 2008 and 2019, with the value of organic blueberry sales increasing more than fivefold to reach $205 million in 2019. ERS added that ongoing advancements in mechanical harvesting “may be necessary for berry growers to manage increasing harvesting costs and to face the shortages of manual harvesting labor.”