Executive Director's Letter:Set to Thrive in Unprecedented Times

Unprecedented is a word that oddly seems to be used with regularity when describing things related to the Florida blueberry industry.  In the past several years, we have seen unprecedented volumes of Mexican blueberries in the Florida window. Last year, there was an unprecedented global pandemic that affected distribution, and sales during that first week of April came to an unprecedented halt.  We have unprecedented weather events, and at times there have been unprecedented demand and challenges with the H2A program… the list goes on.

Another unprecedented event in 2020 was when the US Trade Representative requested the International Trade Commission self-initiate a Section 201 Global Safeguard Trade Investigation of Blueberry imports. As you know, the ITC found there was not sufficient injury to rule in favor of the domestic producers.  

Now that we have finished the 2021 season, a season in which market stabilization and Florida production relatively returned to normal, we must focus on the future — the future of Florida Blueberries, the future of the domestic industry and how we can remain united as Florida growers but collaborate as global blueberry producers to reach a place of sustainability, where we can co-exist with whatever production pressures we may encounter.

The United Blueberry Task Force has been organized by the North American Blueberry Council (NABC).  This task force will work together to solve the industry’s most important problems. YOUR most important problems. The task force will be working to ensure a united and cohesive industry, build new programs that grow the industry and provide positive returns to all industry segments and geographies. Your voice is well-represented on the task force.  

We know here in Florida that as production in our window increases, so must the demand, and that demand must be at competitive pricing that makes growing blueberries in our state economically viable. We understand that consumers want and need blueberries 52 weeks a year, so we must as an industry and as a task force ensure that blueberries are the preferred berry placed in consumer’s shopping carts.  

As USHBC and NABC look forward and continue to develop plans that will benefit Florida growers, plans that will stabilize market volatility and increase consumer demand, we must also as growers continue to explore innovative practices like machine harvesting, reduce our costs where possible and replant old acreage with new releases from Dr. Munoz at the UF-IFAS blueberry breeding lab that are high-yielding and better suited for the current industry needs.

The unprecedented events and anomalies will surely not come to an end, but I know that the future of our industry will be one of unprecedented strength, unprecedented stability and unprecedented consumer demand for Fresh From Florida Blueberries. 

Brittany H. Lee, Executive Director,
Florida Blueberry Growers Association

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