The Chilean blueberry industry is concerned because last week the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) announced that it would request the International Trade Commission of that country (USITC) to initiate an investigation to determine the damage that blueberry imports may be causing to producers in some states of that country.
“If the investigation determines there is damage, the US could impose safeguards on the countries that export this fruit there," stated Ronald Bown, the president of the Association of Fruit Exporters of Chile (Asoex).
According to a report carried out jointly by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the United States Department of Commerce, “after a series of hearings held in August of this year, evidence was provided that the increase in blueberry imports may be hurting the local blueberry industry, particularly in the southeastern United States."
The United States blueberry imports have increased significantly in the last 15 years. The biggest blueberry suppliers for the US are Peru, Chile, Mexico, Canada, and Argentina, which could be affected by potential safeguard measures.
“Even though we still don't know how a global safeguard measure would affect Chile, we are working with the Chilean Blueberry Committee, the authorities of the Undersecretary of International Economic Relations, and the Chilean Embassy in Washington to face this research process as best we can,” Bown stated.
In this regard, it is important to highlight that Chile has focused its efforts on developing consumption and diversifying markets. In the last 10 years, Chilean fresh blueberry exports went from 50,000 tons to 110,000 tons, growing by 120%. In the same period, exports to the US went from an 82% stake to 50%.
Even though the US continues to be the main export market, and the country has consistently carried out promotional efforts there for the last 13 years, the biggest growth rates in recent years have taken place in Asia and Europe, where new consumers have been added, and penetration has increased in various countries.
“Last season, shipments to Asia increased by 20% and to Europe by 8%, while shipments to the United States decreased by 11%. In the case of organic blueberries, of course, the volume grew in all markets. In this segment, shipments from Chile to the United States grew by 11% and accounted for 74% of shipments,” the president of Asoex stated.
For more information: www.asoex.cl