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

Interior Health reported 79 new cases of COVID-19 and two new death in the region Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. (Ben Hohenstatt/Juneau Empire)
79 new COVID-19 cases, two deaths reported in Interior Health

Both of Friday’s deaths were both recorded at long-term care homes

Salmon Arm Mayor Alan Harrison is comfortable waiting his turn to be vaccinated for COVID-19, as per the B.C. government’s updated vaccination timeline released on Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. (File photo)
Province’s vaccine timeline a shot of hope for Salmon Arm mayor

Mayor Alan Harrison sees majority of residents taking precautions against COVID-19

Adams Lake Kukpi7 (Chief) Cliff Arnouse (pictured), Neskonlith Kukpi7 Judy Wilson and Little Shuswap Lake Kukpi7 Oliver Arnouse released a joint notice regarding confirmed cases of COVID-19 in their respective communities. (File photo)
Secwepemc First Nation bands responding to COVID-19 cases in their communities

Adams Lake, Neskonlith and Little Shuswap Lake band chiefs release joint notice

The CSRD will be hosting online budget consultations and their board meetings will also be streamed online for the foreseeable future. (CSRD Image)
Columbia Shuswap Regional District budget and board meetings will be held online

A first draft of the budget is available on the regional district’s website

(Pixabay photo)
Black Press Weekly Roundup: Top headlines of the week

In case you missed it, here’s what made waves throughout the week

Sunnybank in Oliver. (Google Maps)
Sunnybank long-term care in Oliver reports third COVID-19 death

The facility currently has an outbreak with 35 cases attached to it

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam speaks during a daily briefing in Ottawa. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld)
31 cases of COVID-19 variants detected in Canada: Health officials

Dr. Theresa Tam made announces 13 more variant COVID-19 cases in Canada

Administrative headquarters for the Regional District of Central Okanagan in Kelowna. (File photo)
Tempers fly over a pricey picnic shelter in the North Westside

Lack of detail on $121,000 shelter expenditure further incites self-govenance wishes

Big White Village on Dec. 16. (Big White photo)
11 more COVID-19 cases linked to Big White cluster

Interior Health provided an update on the cluster on Friday

Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops. (Dave Eagles/Kamloops This Week file photo)
COVID-19 outbreak declared at Kamloops’ Royal Inland Hospital surgical unit

Despite 6 South being a surgical unit, RIH said surgeries are continuing at the hospital

Daily COVID-19 cases reported to each B.C. health region, to Jan. 20, 2021. Island Health in blue, Northern Health green, Interior Health orange, Vancouver Coastal in red and Fraser Health in purple. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate stays stable with 508 cases Friday

Vaccine delivered to more than 110,000 high-risk people

(Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
‘It’s incredibly upsetting’: Kelowna health care worker demands WestJet ticket refund

Kelowna woman has been waiting almost a year for a refund on her Kelowna to Edmonton flight

After a Vernon resident tried to domesticate a pair of gopher snakes, BC Conservation Service reminded that it is against the law to keep wild animals in one’s possession. (Yuval Levy/Unsplash)
Wild gopher snakes aren’t pets: Vernon conservation officer

After resident kept two gopher snakes in his home, conservation reminds it’s illegal to domesticate wildlife

Most Read