US Trade Representative Calls for Strawberries InvestigationBy Jan Hogewoning | Sun, 11/29/2020 - 16:19
US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer has requested an investigation into strawberry imports in the US market, Tridge reported on Thursday. In a letter sent to the chair of the US International Trade Commission (ITC) on Nov. 3, he officially asked the body to “monitor and investigate the import of strawberries.” This comes weeks after he made a similar request for blueberries.
Almost 99 percent of strawberries imported in the US come from Mexico, Tridge writes. The request made by Lighthizer therefore is of potential concern for Mexican strawberry growers. The request comes after growers, primarily in the states of Georgia and Florida, along with local legislators and industry officials, complained to the USTR that imports “are limiting domestic market access and influencing their crop prices.” The issue is overlapping seasonality of US and Mexican strawberries. The Mexican fruit arrives at very competitive prices, putting pressure on US strawberry wholesales to lower their prices too. US strawberries are sold from November to late spring. Mexico harvests most of its strawberries from January to late spring. According to Tridge, the prices of US strawberries fall dramatically as Mexican strawberries arrive in the market.
MBN has reported multiple times on the dismay of Florida and Georgia growers, particularly blueberry and pecan producers, of what they perceive as unfair competition from Mexican produce. One of the measures they have called for repeatedly are seasonal tariffs to prevent Mexican produce from outpricing US produce. This was a contentious issue during USMCA negotiations. USTR also threatened to sue Mexico if it did not approve US biotech products following the implementation of USMCA. However, in October, MBN spoke with industry experts in Mexico about the possibility of seasonal tariffs being placed on Mexican products. They considered this to be unlikely given the potential adverse prices for US consumers as well as retaliatory measures Mexico could slap on US exports.
The Mexican strawberry sector has seen a strong rise over the last decade. According to INIFAP statistics, the strawberry acreage reportedly grew by 63 percent from 2011 to 2019. In 2019, the country exported over 200,000 tons of fresh strawberries at a value of US$824.3 million, up from 65,143 tons worth US$259.6 million in 2010.