Cranberry producers in Massachusetts, and around the country, are more and more stuck with their surplus fruit. For years, harvests in the three major cranberry-producing countries — the United States, Canada and Chile — have swelled, while many consumers have turned away from sugary beverages like cranberry juice. As a result, the global supply of cranberries has outgrown demand, and many Bay State growers have been pushed to the brink of failure.
“We‘re in what I think is a really tough spot right now,” said Dom Fernandes, a third-generation cranberry grower in Carver, Massachusetts. His company is struggling to break even.
In 2008, a Massachusetts grower could expect to fetch around $58.60 per barrel of fruit, according to data from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). By 2018, — a 62% drop. To make matters worse, the ongoing trade war between Washington and Beijing has put a tight squeeze on international cranberry sales.
As the Trump administration prepares for a new round of trade talks, Chinese tariffs on American cranberries remain in place, adding to the economic pain growers are feeling. However, the makings of the current cranberry glut were visible as early as 2012. And it was around that time that the industry, in search of new customers, focused its marketing muscle on China.
The trade war
On July 6, 2018, the White House approved tariffs on $50 billion worth of Chinese goods. Chinese trade authorities immediately retaliated with tariffs on dozens of U.S. goods, including dried cranberries, for which China‘s Ministry of Commerce raised an existing tariff from 15% to 40%.
President Trump insists the trade war will eventually pay off for American agriculture. However, the latest export data show that many Chinese businesses have already cut off ties with their U.S. cranberry suppliers.