Florida and Georgia Blueberry Growers Want Say in NAFTA
Florida and Georgia blueberry growers have been under extra pressure on several fronts this season. In addition to post-hurricane crop loss, gall midge grief, and late-season cold snaps, the flood of product coming from foreign competitors have all but shut the window on a profitable season for Florida and Georgia producers. “The massive importation of Mexican blueberries during our window is crippling the Florida blueberry industry,” stated Brittany Lee, President of the Florida Blueberry Growers Association (FBGA), in a memo recently sent to the association’s members.
As a response, the FBGA teamed up with the Georgia Blueberry Growers Association (GBGA) to send a joint letter to legislators asking provisions to protect the blueberry industry of Florida and Georgia be included in North American Free Trade Agreement negotiations.
So far this season, 43.5 million pounds of Mexican blueberries have made their way into the U.S. marketplace, while Florida and Georgia growers have produced about half that. Part of the letter reads as follows: “While our industry has experienced growth and stability in the recent past, the competitive disadvantage with large volumes of low priced fruit has resulted in a collapsing market, and a continual and rapid decline in pricing. We applaud the Administration’s commitment to renegotiating with Mexico and Canada, and hope that considerations will be made that will help protect our blueberry industry in the Southeast – the viability of our industry is at stake.”
FBGA and GBGA leaders are asking members to forward a copy of the letter to their local legislators.
In 2015, the combined Florida and Georgia blueberry sector was estimated to be $186 million, which translated to an economic impact of approximately twice that, according to industry data.