Rough Road Ahead

Surge in Mexican Blueberry Imports Stifling Florida’s Blueberry Profits

Blueberry is a relatively new crop in the world market compared to other members of the berry family. The United States is the largest blueberry producer in the world, supplying half of the world's blueberry products over the past decade. About 50 percent of the U.S. blueberry production was sold as fresh products. 

Between 2000 and 2018, U.S. blueberry production (fresh and processed) increased by 48%, from 294 million pounds in 2000 to 605 million pounds in 2018. The growth in the fresh blueberry production was most prominent and the production increased by 284% over the period, from 80 million pounds in 2000 to 306 million pounds in 2018 (Figure 1). As domestic consumption of fresh blueberries kept increasing, the fresh blueberry imports have also increased dramatically, from 37 million pounds in 2000 to 395 in 2018, superseding the total U.S. production in 2016 (Figure 1). The U.S. blueberry exports were relatively stable over the period, averaging 58 million pounds per year. 

Figure 1. The trend of U.S fresh blueberry supply, 2000 to 2018 (Source: USDA-ERS)


Florida blueberry industry 

Most of the blueberries produced in Florida are sold in the fresh market. In 2011, Florida fresh blueberries production reached 21 million pounds, which was roughly eight times higher than the production in 2000 (2.8 million pounds) (Figure 2). However, after 2011, the growth has stagnated due to Mexican competition. The production in 2018 was 20 million pounds and the total value of production was $60 million, which were 3% of the total domestic production and 7% of the total domestic value of production, respectively.  

Figure 2. The trend of Florida blueberry production and Mexican Imports, 2000 to 2018 



Mexican Competition

Florida’s production window is March through May, coinciding with Mexico’s peak production (Figure 3A). In the past 10 years, Mexican blueberry imports have grown exponentially. In 2009, imports of Mexican blueberries were 0.8 million pounds but the amount reached 71 million pounds, growing 90-fold over the period (Figure 2). 

Over 50% of the Mexican blueberries were imported within the Florida production window (Figure 3A), creating tremendous pressure on the blueberry industry in Florida and driving down market prices. Data from the USDA-AMS shows that the Mexican blueberry prices at ports of entry are lower than those of Florida blueberries (Figure 3B). 

The surge in blueberry imports from Mexico has had a large impact on the profitability of blueberry production in Florida, resulting in significant loss of revenues for Florida growers. The increasing trend of imports is expected to continue and will be the major challenge for the Florida blueberry industry. 

To help the industry address the challenge, the Agricultural Economics team (led by Dr. Zhengfei Guan and Dr. Feng Wu) in the Gulf Coast Research and Education Center (GCREC) at the University of Florida submitted a research proposal to the USDA Specialty Crop Block Grant Program (approved by FDACS and awaiting final approval from the USDA). The team will quantify the impact of Mexican imports on the Florida blueberry industry and help identify best management strategies to reduce costs and improve profitability of blueberry production in Florida. 

Figure 3. Blueberry production and price



by Sheng Li, Ariel Soto-Caro, Tianyuan Luo, Zhengfei Guan

University of Florida
Bio: Zhengfei Guan is an Associate Professor of Food and Resource Economics

Gulf Coast Research and Education Center

University of Florida

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