The U.S. International Trade Commission’s (USITC) decision regarding blueberry imports dealt a disheartening and devastating blow to Southeast producers claiming serious injury to the domestic industry.
But does the verdict foreshadow additional despair for vegetable farmers who are also claiming imports have hurt their respective commodities; namely, squash, peppers and cucumbers?
“There is concern. Each case is kind of held on its own. As I understand it, they look at the evidence presented and judgements are made at that point,” said Charles Hall, executive director of the Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association.
“We felt like blueberries did have a very strong case and very strong data. We’re trying to evaluate how the others will be handled. It’s concerning but not discouraging.”
Last Week’s Verdict
The USITC voted unanimously last Thursday that imports of fresh, chilled or frozen blueberries are not a serious injury to the domestic industry. The decision was made despite staggering statistical evidence of how the rise of imports in previous years has driven down prices for such growers in Florida and Georgia.
The USITC is currently seeking input for two additional investigations regarding the impact of imported cucumbers and squashes on the U.S. seasonal markets. The U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) requested the investigations in a letter. The USITC will hold a public virtual hearing regarding the investigations on April 8 at 9:30 a.m.
While the commodities are not the same, the premise behind the investigations are similar: Imports are devastating the futures of Southeastern farmers. For cucumber, squash and bell pepper farmers, the main culprit is Mexico.
“When you start looking at the nature of the imports, where blueberries had heavy imports from multiple countries like Canada, Mexico, Chile, Peru; our (vegetable) imports are primarily from Mexico. The ITC will have to look at all the various imports,” Hall added. “I’m assuming if you look at the percent of imports in peppers and squash and cucumbers, Mexico is going to be your largest importer whereas they were not as large of an importer with blueberries as some of the other countries.”