Freshly picked blueberries are see at Emma Lea Farms in Ladner, B.C., on Monday July 21, 2014. British Columbia is contributing funds in response to a probe into whether blueberry producers in the United States are being unfairly harmed by what some say is an influx in berry imports, including from Canada. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

B.C. helps fund blueberry farmers against U.S. trade commission investigation

B.C. helps fund blueberry farmers against U.S. trade commission investigation

VICTORIA — British Columbia is making a financial contribution to help blueberry farmers fight a looming trade investigation in the United States over imported berries, including from Canada.

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer requested an investigation by the U.S. International Trade Commission in September after reports that domestic farmers are being hurt by cheaper imported berries.

Ravi Kahlon, B.C.’s minister for jobs and economic recovery, says the province is giving Ottawa about $80,000 for economic research to strengthen Canada’s legal strategy ahead of a hearing next month.

Kahlon says the vast majority of Canada’s fresh blueberry exports to the United States come from about 800 blueberry growers in B.C.,while overall, Canada is a top importer of fresh U.S. blueberries.

The trade commission could recommend tariffs or quotas if it finds U.S. blueberry growers have been injured or are under the threat of injury by imports, but Kahlon says he’s optimistic about a positive outcome since Canada’s share of the U.S. berry market has decreased in recent years.

The first hearing in the investigation is set for Jan. 12.

“The irony of the whole thing is that Canada, overall, actually imports more blueberries than we export to the U.S. It just happens to be that B.C. is the major producer,” Kahlon said in an interview Wednesday.

A report from Lighthizer’s office shows that Peru is the top exporter of blueberries to the United States by value. Its berry exports were worth about $12.6 million in 2014 and it increased to more than $485 million by 2019.

Chile and Mexico were second and third last year, while Canada’s blueberry exports to the States came in fourth, valued at almost $116 million. That’s up from just under $102 million five years earlier.

Anju Gill, the executive director of the B.C. Blueberry Council, says the cost of responding to trade investigations can exceed $1 million, so the B.C. and federal governments are supporting industry organizations as a legal team prepares a case.

“We feel that there is no injury from the Canadian perspective,” said Gill, adding there hasn’t been a marked surge of Canadian berries into the States.

In a letter to Lighthizer in September, members of Congress from Maine advocated for blueberry producers north of the border, saying the state’s blueberry processing industry depends on bulk imports from Canada.

The processors turn excess perishable berries into frozen products ready for distribution and sale, the members explained.

“These bulk imports do not harm Maine’s domestic growers of wild blueberries, but rather these operations allow many of Maine’s blueberry businesses to survive,” their letter reads.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 30, 2020.

The Canadian Press

Agriculture

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Red Deer city council gave initial approval for more mixed-use developments in Riverside Light Industrial Park. (File photo by Advocate staff)
More industrial landowners in Red Deer are pursuing mixed-use zoning

A third of Riverside Light could become a commercial/industrial district

Central Alberta man facing second-degree murder in connection with December death.
Advocate file photo
Central Alberta man facing second-degree murder in connection with December death

Maskwacis RCMP said female found dead in Ermineskin Cree Nation residence last December

Red Deer College has been working towards obtaining university status for a couple of years. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Red Deer College’s university status back in question

Red Deer College should be worried that its university dreams could be… Continue reading

The Mountain Cree Traditional Band headquarters in Mirror, Alta. has been the target of theft and vandalism. (Photo submitted)
Vandals strike: Artifacts worth $1M gone from central Alberta museum

AWNTB says not enough been done to deter crime in Mirror, Alta.

Justin Kripps of Summerland and his team have competed in Olympic action and World Cup competitions in bobsleigh. (Jason Ransom-Canadian Olympic Comittee).
QUIZ: Are you ready for some winter sports?

It’s cold outside, but there are plenty of recreation opportunities in the winter months

Montreal Canadiens down Edmonton Oilers 3-1, sweep series

Montreal Canadiens down Edmonton Oilers 3-1, sweep series

Toronto Raptors forward Pascal Siakam (43) loses the basketball as he tries to drive around Dallas Mavericks center Willie Cauley-Stein (33) during the second half of an NBA basketball game Monday, Jan. 18, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Chris O'Meara
Lowry leads the way as Raptors down the Mavericks for their third straight win

Lowry leads the way as Raptors down the Mavericks for their third straight win

Johnny Gaudreau’s goal and assist paces Flames to 5-2 victory over Canucks

Johnny Gaudreau’s goal and assist paces Flames to 5-2 victory over Canucks

Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole holds a press conference on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa, on Dec. 10, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Tory MP Sloan accuses party of hypocrisy over efforts to have him expelled

Tory MP Sloan accuses party of hypocrisy over efforts to have him expelled

FILE - In this Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2019 file photo Britain's Andy Murray reacts during a press conference following his first round loss to Spain's Roberto Bautista Agut at the Australian Open tennis championships in Melbourne, Australia. Former world number one Murray's participation at the upcoming Australian Open is in doubt after the Briton tested positive for COVID-19. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung, File)
Australian Open arrivals hit by 3 COVID-19 positive tests

Australian Open arrivals hit by 3 COVID-19 positive tests

Toronto Maple Leafs right wing Mitchell Marner (16) scores on an empty net and takes a hit from Winnipeg Jets defenceman Neal Pionk (4) during third period of action in Toronto on Monday, January 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Toronto Maple Leafs ride dominant second period to down Winnipeg Jets 3-1

Toronto Maple Leafs ride dominant second period to down Winnipeg Jets 3-1

Roman Sadovsky wins the Challenge, his only event of the figure skating season

Roman Sadovsky wins the Challenge, his only event of the figure skating season

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, left, speaks with International Ice Hockey Federation President Rene Fasel during their meeting in Minsk, Belarus, Monday, Jan. 11, 2021. (Nikolai Petrov/BelTA Pool Photo via AP)
IIHF pulls hockey worlds from Belarus, seeks new host

IIHF pulls hockey worlds from Belarus, seeks new host

Most Read