Last week, Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue was in West Michigan and Northern Indiana, talking to growers from those regions. Markets, seasonal pests and praise for the Farmers to Families Food Box distribution were on the minds of those who attended and talked with the USDA secretary.
Shelly Hartman, co-owner of True Blue Farms in Grand Junction and Vice President of the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council, cited the influx of foreign blueberries into the country during peak blueberry season. She talked about the explains economic impacts of foreign blueberries flooding U.S. markets during peak harvest season during a farm visit with Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue.
Hartman stated that Mexico, Peru, Chile, Canada, and Argentina shipped more than 472 million pounds of blueberries combined directly into U.S. markets during peak fresh season in 2019, in addition to frozen blueberries throughout the year.
Rapidgrowthmedia.com reports that where domestic producers receive an average of $2.03 USD return per pound, imported berries return an average of $2.37 USD based on exchange rates alone.
Lower labor costs in South America and less stringent pesticide regulations give South American growers the advantage in cost of production over American farmers. Because of additional food safety regulations in the U.S. — and now COVID-19 precautions adding to the expense — U.S. blueberry producers are operating at a .095 loss per pound in the fresh market.