U.S. Senator Angus King is leading a group of lawmakers, calling on the Biden Administration to expand markets for Maine blueberries and reduce barriers facing farmers who export the fruit. In a letter written by Senator King with Congressmen Larsen and Valadao and co-signed by the entire Maine Delegation, the lawmakers urge U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai to expand overseas sales of Maine wild blueberries by working with Japanese counterparts to eliminate harmful frozen blueberry tariffs.
The 2019 U.S.-Japan Trade Agreement eliminated tariffs – a form of import tax – on fresh and dried blueberries, but frozen blueberries continue to face a 6.0 percent or 9.6 percent tariff rate, depending on sugar content. Japan lifted tariffs on frozen blackberries, raspberries and strawberries, leaving frozen blueberries as an outlier in terms of market access. The U.S. share of the Japanese frozen blueberry import market has declined year-over-year following the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership’s (CPTPP) entry into force, from 21 percent in 2018 to 15 percent in 2022.
“Increasing exports to Asia is an important way to support U.S. agricultural industries and grow jobs in the United States, and blueberries are an important commodity, with exports worth over $245 million in 2021. We urge you to work with your Japanese counterparts to support U.S. farmers by eliminating Japan’s frozen blueberry tariffs,” wrote the lawmakers. “Japan’s tariffs on frozen blueberries have made American exports non-competitive… As a result, American frozen blueberry exports to Japan have been declining relative to those from top competitors like Canada and the European Union, who enjoy tariff-free trade with Japan for all forms of blueberries.”
“We urge you to pursue a technical amendment to the U.S.-Japan Trade Agreement to ensure U.S. frozen blueberries receive the same duty-free market access in Japan as fresh or dried blueberries, as well as other frozen berries,” the lawmakers concluded. “Doing so will allow U.S. farmers to compete on level terms with other blueberry exporting countries and would help save and revitalize market opportunities for U.S. berry farmers.”
The lawmakers’ letter to USTR Tai and the USDA can be found here.
Maine produces nearly 100% of US produced wild blueberries. Ninety-eight percent of those are fresh frozen, locking in freshness to create the best frozen blueberry money can buy, frozen wild blueberries.
According to the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, both the area harvested and yield per acre fell last year. Effectively, Maine’s wild blueberry production fell by more than a quarter last year.
Production last year totaled 780,000 pounds of wild blueberries for the fresh market and 76.8 million pounds for processing, good for a value of $55.5 million. The price of the crop slightly declined to just under 72 cents per pound.
For more information: pingree.house.gov