By Tacy Callies
Florida fruit and vegetable growers are acutely aware of the negative impacts that Mexico’s exports have had on their ability to remain competitive. In a recent virtual presentation on the subject, Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association President Mike Joyner shared some shocking statistics from a Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) report. Published in July, the report looked at 24 specialty crop commodities in Florida and found that 83% suffered market share loss due to competition from Mexico.
Perhaps most alarming were the blueberry numbers. From 2000 to 2017, Mexican imports in the United States have increased from 150,000 pounds to 48 million pounds. The latest projections show 60 million pounds of blueberries coming to the United States from Mexico in 2020.
The report shows that from 2000 to 2019, the value of Mexican produce shipments to the United States surged by 551 percent. “Between 2017 and 2019, the value of produce from Mexico jumped from $12.92 billion to $15.04 billion,” said Joyner.
Joyner said Mexican government subsidies are a big reason for the country’s growth in produce market share. He added that Mexico is targeting eastern United States markets with lower prices than western markets, despite higher transportation costs to the eastern markets.
Joyner explained that for a country to bring a trade case before the International Trade Commission, it first must prove it makes up 25 percent of the total market share for a product during a 365-day period. With many of Florida’s specialty crops being highly seasonal with short market windows, U.S. growers are not able to meet this requirement.
Federal legislators and Florida agricultural associations are working closely together to draft legislation that would change the 365-day requirement to a shorter time period while considering regions instead of the whole country. Joyner said all 27 congressional members from Florida support changing the existing legislation. “Both senators have been extremely strong on this issue,” he said.
In addition, Joyner said U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer made a commitment to help growers within 60 days of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) going into effect. The USMCA, a successor to the North American Free Trade Agreement, became effective July 1.
Hear Joyner’s full presentation, which was part of the Citrus Expo/Vegetable & Specialty Crop Expo general session held virtually on Aug. 19–20.