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U.S. trade body rules blueberry imports do not harm industry

Canada among top five nations selling blueberries into U.S.

(Scott Bauer photo courtesy ARS/USDA)

Washington/Mexico City | Reuters — The U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) ruled on Thursday that blueberry imports are not causing serious injury to domestic producers and will not recommend further action to reduce foreign supplies, in a win for berry exporters.

In recent years, U.S. producers have claimed damages from what they argue are unfair trade practices by Mexico’s large farm exporters, particularly fresh fruit growers who compete against U.S. producers from politically influential states such as Florida.

The ITC “has determined that fresh, chilled or frozen blueberries are not being imported into the United States in such increased quantities as to be a substantial cause of serious injury, or threat of serious injury, to the domestic industry,” the independent body said in its ruling.

The Mexican government praised the ruling in a statement, adding that its blueberry exports complement U.S. production and provide a benefit to consumers with year-round supply.

The ruling in the so-called Section 201 safeguard investigation ends for now the possibility of the U.S. government imposing duties on imported blueberries.

The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) had requested that the ITC initiate the case to determine whether the foreign supplies were hurting domestic growers.

The same law was used in 2018 by the Trump administration to impose tariffs and quotas on imports of washing machines and solar panels.

The USTR, in its report last fall announcing it would seek a Section 201 investigation, cited U.S. Census Bureau data showing imports of blueberries into the U.S. had “more than doubled” between 2014 and 2019.

Those data showed the U.S. importing over US$1.24 billion in blueberries in 2019, with over 98 per cent coming from five countries: Peru ($485.2 million), Chile ($313 million), Mexico ($291.1 million), Canada ($116 million) and Argentina ($33.3 million).

In 2020, Mexico exported some 53,000 tonnes of fresh, frozen and processed blueberries valued at more than $355 million, according to agriculture ministry data.

Around 96 per cent of the shipments were sent to the United States.

— Reporting for Reuters by David Lawder in Washington and David Alire Garcia in Mexico City. Includes files from Glacier FarmMedia Network staff.

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