According to University of Georgia Agribusiness Extension economist Greg Fonsah, there is a real opportunity for the region's blueberry growers to capitalize on exports, especially as Chinese consumption of blueberries has increased dramatically (from 28 million pounds in 2012 to 360 million pounds in 2018). Because of the US-China Economic Trade Agreement, the US was granted access to export blueberries to China, as of May 2020.
“It is about time for the US to also penetrate that market and get a share of the market especially in that May 2020 we had this agreement with the Chinese government,” Fonsah said. “It is going to be an opportunity for the US blueberry industry to start looking at the Chinese market and try to capture a huge market share, just like Chile, Peru, Argentina and Mexico.”
The region’s blueberry growers need every market source they can get at this point. Increased domestic production of blueberries combined with increased imports have flooded the US market. Unfortunately, when markets flood, prices plunge. This is a focal point of the American Blueberry Growers Alliance case to the International Trade Commission that a serious injury has occurred.
“The market has totally changed in 10 years, totally changed,” Fonsah said. “We have also doubled the production. The domestic production plus imports coming from Mexico, guess what, we have flooded the market.”
Imports from Latin America remains the primary challenge to Southeastern blueberry producers’ production. From 2010 to 2019, Peru’s export production to the United States exploded from almost nothing to 140 million pounds. Mexico’s production soared to almost 80 million pounds, according to the US Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census.
Vscnews.com explains how US fresh-market production of blueberries increased from about 250 million pounds in 2010 to about 370 million pounds in 2019, according to the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service.