Blueberry growers want better access to Japan

A bipartisan group of lawmakers is pressing the U.S. Trade Representative to eliminate trade barriers with Japan for blueberry growers.

The lawmakers say tariffs on frozen blueberries have put the U.S. at a competitive disadvantage since the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership was enacted in 2018.

Michigan Blueberry Advisory Committee President Chad Reenders tells Brownfield reduced demand for West Coast frozen blueberries backfills available storage space and market access for Michigan growers.

“When the West Coast cannot export to Japan and other countries like that, they end up filling our domestic freezers,” he explains.  “With Michigan being one of the last states to farm blueberries in the United States, our farmers sometimes struggle with freezer space. Unfortunately, when the freezers are full, the market is very low and that can even bounce into the fresh market as well.”

In a letter to USTR, lawmakers are asking for a duty-free amendment to the U.S. Japan Trade Agreement to give frozen blueberries the same access that fresh and dried blueberries have currently.

Japan is the third-largest international market for U.S. frozen blueberries.  However, the U.S. market share in Japan has fallen six percent over the past four years while Canada maintained its 57 percent share last year and the European Union more than doubled its share to nine percent. 

The letter is signed by Michigan members of Congress Jack Bergman, Bill Huizenga, John Moolenaar, Hillary Scholten, and Elissa Slotkin among others.

Michigan Farm Bureau is also calling for action.

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