Freshly picked blueberries are see at Emma Lea Farms in Ladner, B.C., on Monday July 21, 2014. British Columbia is contributing funds in response to a probe into whether blueberry producers in the United States are being unfairly harmed by what some say is an influx in berry imports, including from Canada. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Freshly picked blueberries are see at Emma Lea Farms in Ladner, B.C., on Monday July 21, 2014. British Columbia is contributing funds in response to a probe into whether blueberry producers in the United States are being unfairly harmed by what some say is an influx in berry imports, including from Canada. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

B.C. helps fund blueberry farmers against U.S. trade commission investigation

Ravi Kahlon, B.C.’s minister for jobs and economic recovery, says the province is giving Ottawa about $80,000

British Columbia is making a financial contribution to help blueberry farmers fight a looming trade investigation in the United States over imported berries, including from Canada.

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer requested an investigation by the U.S. International Trade Commission in September after reports that domestic farmers are being hurt by cheaper imported berries.

Ravi Kahlon, B.C.’s minister for jobs and economic recovery, says the province is giving Ottawa about $80,000 for economic research to strengthen Canada’s legal strategy ahead of a hearing next month.

Kahlon says the vast majority of Canada’s fresh blueberry exports to the United States come from about 800 blueberry growers in B.C.,while overall, Canada is a top importer of fresh U.S. blueberries.

The trade commission could recommend tariffs or quotas if it finds U.S. blueberry growers have been injured or are under the threat of injury by imports, but Kahlon says he’s optimistic about a positive outcome since Canada’s share of the U.S. berry market has decreased in recent years.

The first hearing in the investigation is set for Jan. 12.

“The irony of the whole thing is that Canada, overall, actually imports more blueberries than we export to the U.S. It just happens to be that B.C. is the major producer,” Kahlon said in an interview Wednesday.

A report from Lighthizer’s office shows that Peru is the top exporter of blueberries to the United States by value. Its berry exports were worth about $12.6 million in 2014 and it increased to more than $485 million by 2019.

Chile and Mexico were second and third last year, while Canada’s blueberry exports to the States came in fourth, valued at almost $116 million. That’s up from just under $102 million five years earlier.

Anju Gill, the executive director of the B.C. Blueberry Council, says the cost of responding to trade investigations can exceed $1 million, so the B.C. and federal governments are supporting industry organizations as a legal team prepares a case.

“We feel that there is no injury from the Canadian perspective,” said Gill, adding there hasn’t been a marked surge of Canadian berries into the States.

In a letter to Lighthizer in September, members of Congress from Maine advocated for blueberry producers north of the border, saying the state’s blueberry processing industry depends on bulk imports from Canada.

The processors turn excess perishable berries into frozen products ready for distribution and sale, the members explained.

“These bulk imports do not harm Maine’s domestic growers of wild blueberries, but rather these operations allow many of Maine’s blueberry businesses to survive,” their letter reads.

The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Agriculture

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer, updates British Columbians about COVID-19 at a press conference earlier this week. (B.C. Government image)
B.C.’s 1st case of COVID-19 confirmed a year ago today

Here’s a look at some of the key dates in the province’s fight against the novel coronavirus

Maple Ridge Mayor Mike Morden. (The News files)
Maple Ridge grants extension for rezoning applications

Applicants now have until Jan. 1, 2022

Ridge Meadows Search and Rescue swift water team drives up the Lower Falls trail at Golden Ears Park to help a women who lost her way. (Ridge Meadows Search and Rescue/ Facebook)
Ridge Meadows Search and Rescue aid woman stranded by waterfall

Hiker found herself unsure of the way back while walking in Maple Ridge’s Golden Ears Park

Coun. Chelsa Meadus
Maple Ridge councillor calls out province on homelessness

MLA says he has been willing to meet with the city, more addiction treatment coming

British Columbia Health Minister Adrian Dix looks on as Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry addresses the media during a news conference at the BC Centre of Disease Control in Vancouver B.C. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)
B.C. announces 485 new COVID-19 cases, fewest deaths in months

‘The actions we take may seem small, but will have a big impact to stop the virus,” urges Dr. Henry

Grad student Marisa Harrington and her supervisor Lynneth Stuart-Hill say preliminary results from a study into the affects of stress on hospital nurses show an impact on sleep and heart variability. (Courtesy of Marisa Harrington)
University of Victoria study shows stress impact on B.C. nurses

Stress may be impacting sleep, heart health of hospital nurses in Victoria region

Sooke’s Amy McLaughlin holds Theodore, a bunny who will be going to a new owner in Nanaimo within the coming days if all goes will at an upcoming bunny play-date. (Aaron Guillen/News Staff)
Vancouver Island woman looking to hop into bigger space for bunny rescue operation

Amy McLaughlin has rescued more than 400 bunnies, pushing for the capacity to help more

Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News
Search called off for small plane that went down in rough water south of Victoria

Plane bound for Port Angeles from Alaska believed to have one occupant, an Alaskan pilot

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

BC Place Stadium in a photo posted to cisc-icca.ca.
Roof of BC Place a stage for performers during online music festival

‘This will be the first time any artists have performed from the 204-foot iconic Vancouver rooftop’

Royal B.C. Museum conservator Megan Doxsey-Whitfield kneels next to a carved stone pillar believed to have significance as a First Nations cultural marker by local Indigenous people. The pillar was discovered on the beach at Dallas Road last summer. Museum curatorial staff have been working with Songhees and Esquimalt Nation representatives to gain a clearer picture of its use. (Photo courtesy Royal BC Museum)
Stone carving found on Victoria beach confirmed Indigenous ritual pillar

Discussion underway with the Esquimalt and Songhees about suitable final home for the artifact

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
Driver crashes vehicle twice in one day near Princeton

Abbotsford woman, 29, wasn’t injured in either incident

Former Vancouver Giants forward Evander Kane is seen here in Game 7 of the second round of the 2009 WHL playoffs against the Spokane Chiefs (Sam Chan under Wikipedia Commons licence)
Gambling debts revealed in details of bankruptcy filing by hockey star Evander Kane

Sharks left winger and former Vancouver Giants player owes close to $30 million total

Most Read