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The U.S. market share of frozen blueberries in Japan fell from 21% in 2018 to 15% in 2022.

May 17, 2023

2 Min Read
frozen blueberries up close
BLUEBERRY MARKETS: The U.S. market share of frozen blueberries in Japan fell from 21% in 2018 to 15% in 2022. At the same time, Canada maintained its market share of 57% last year, with the European Union more than doubling its share to 9%. Ivannag82/Getty Images

Japan’s tariffs on frozen blueberries from the U.S. are icing out American growers from a crucial market and affecting the entire blueberry industry, according to a bipartisan group of lawmakers.

They’re calling on U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai and USDA to work with their Japanese counterparts to ensure equal market access for U.S. growers by eliminating the tariffs on frozen blueberries.

Japan is the third-largest international market for U.S. frozen blueberries. While the U.S.-Japan Trade Agreement that took effect in 2020 eliminated Japan’s tariffs on fresh and dried blueberries, it omitted frozen blueberries from the relief. U.S. frozen blueberry exports to Japan continue to face a 6% or 9.6% tariff in Japan, depending on sugar content.

“We urge you to pursue a technical amendment to the U.S.-Japan Trade Agreement to ensure U.S. frozen blueberries receive the same duty-free market access in Japan as fresh or dried blueberries, as well as other frozen berries,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter. “Doing so will allow U.S. farmers to compete on level terms with other blueberry-exporting countries and would help save and revitalize market opportunities for U.S. berry farmers.”

The letter was signed by four senators and 27 House members — including Michigan Reps. Jack Bergman, Bill Huizenga, John Moolenaar, Hillary Scholten and Elissa Slotkin.

While Michigan’s growers are focused on the domestic blueberry market, the tariffs are still affecting them, says Chad Reenders, president of the Michigan Blueberry Advisory Committee.

“We're centrally located in the United States, so shipping-wise it's just not affordable to do that for us [to export blueberries],” Reenders says.

He learned of the tariff concerns while talking with growers from the West Coast during a recent visit to Washington, D.C., to discuss issues facing the blueberry industry with lawmakers.

“The West Coast has a lot of tonnage when it comes to their blueberry season,” Reenders adds. “If they can't export it to Japan — which will take in millions of pounds — they end up putting into the domestic market. Well, that hurts the Michigan market because they're filling orders and fill-in freezers.”

In the past four years, the U.S. share of the Japanese frozen blueberry import market has declined year-over-year following the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership that allowed for top competitors such as Canada and the European Union to have tariff-free trade with Japan for all forms of blueberries.

“If our partners on the West Coast are unable to access such an important market, it means domestic blueberry growers will be fighting for the same market — which will drive down our prices,” says John Kran, MFB national legislative counsel. “We see great opportunity for exports to Japan and applaud the bipartisan effort in Congress to find a way forward.”

Source: Michigan Farm Bureau

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