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

File photo
Alberta’s central zone has 670 active cases

301 new cases identified Sunday

Alberta has 1,910 active cases of COVID-19 as of Wednesday. Red Deer is reporting five active cases, with 108 recovered. (File photo)
Red Deer reports 25th COVID-19 death

415 new cases identified provincially Saturday

4-H Alberta Logo
Rimbey 4-H Club holds virtual public speaking event

Club members submitted their speeches and performances in video format for judging this year.

Alberta Health reported two new COVID-19 deaths in Red Deer Friday. (Image courtesy CDC)
Two more deaths linked to Olymel outbreak in Red Deer

Province reported 356 additional COVID-19 cases Friday

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney speaks during a news conference in Edmonton on Feb. 24, 2020. It’s budget day in the province, and Kenney’s United Conservative government is promising more help in the fight against COVID, but more red ink on the bottom line. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta’s budget promises more help for COVID-19 with a hard deficit

Annual spending on debt interest is closing in on $3 billion

People line up outside a vaccine clinic as seniors wait to get the COVID-19 vaccine in Edmonton Alta, on Friday February 26, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta Health Services head sorry for glitches in vaccine booking system for seniors

AHS president said technical issues have been fixed and a virtual waiting room is in place

Vandalism is shown on Alberta NDP MLA Janis Irwin’s constituency office in Edmonton in this handout photo on Saturday, February 27, 2021. Alberta Premier Jason Kenney quickly condemned vandalism at an Opposition legislature member Janis Irwin’s Edmonton office after the MLA posted pictures showing her front window spray-painted with the words “Antifa Liar.” THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Janis Irwin *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Alberta Premier slams vandalism after slur painted on MLA’s office window

Edmonton MLA Janis Irwin posted pictures showing the front window spray-painted with the words ‘Antifa Liar’

A helicopter flies past a mountain near McBride, B.C., on Saturday January 30, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Avalanche warning for backcountry users in North and South Rockies

Avalanche Canada is urging backcountry users to always check their regional avalanche forecasts

Supporters pray outside court in Stony Plain, Alta., on Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021, as a trial date was set for Pastor James Coates of GraceLife Church. He is charged with holding Sunday services in violation of Alberta’s COVID-19 rules and with breaking conditions of his bail release. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Trial date for jailed Alberta pastor charged with breaking COVID-19 health orders

The court says it will reconvene with lawyers on March 5 for a case management plan by teleconference

A pharmacist prepares a COVID-19 vaccine at Village Green Retirement Campus in Federal Way on Jan. 26. (Olivia Sullivan/Sound Publishing)
Canada approves use of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine

The country joins more than a dozen others in giving the shot the green light

Emily Keeping of Wetaskiwin, Alta., was last seen at 4:20 p.m. on Feb. 25, 2021 at the FasGas on 49 St and 50 Ave in Wetaskiwin. Supplied/ Wetaskiwin RCMP.
UPDATE: Wetaskiwin RCMP seek assistance in locating missing 11-year-old

Emily Keeping was last seen on Feb. 25, 2021 at the FasGas on 49 St and 50 Ave in Wetaskiwin.

Sylvan Lake's Winter Village lured many visitors to the town this winter. The town has launched a new contest to attract a new business.
(Black Press file photo)
Sylvan Lake offering rent-free storefront space to lure new businesses

Winning business proposal will get a storefront space rent-free for a year

Most Read