Canadian blueberries next on U.S. tariff list?
First, it was softwood lumber. Then, it was wheat. Now, Americans are saying Canadian blueberry farmers have an unfair advantage and they want to slap a duty on Canadian berries going into the U.S.
An American company, Wyman's, has called for a duty on wild Canadian blueberries, even though it has operations on the Canadian side of the border.
The president of the world's second-largest blueberry producer says the duty would stop unfair pricing in Quebec, where many growers farm on Crown land, making their costs lower.
"This will send one hell of a warning to the province of Quebec which has shown nothing but irresponsibility when it comes to marketing its fruit," said Ed Flanaghan of Wyman's.
The number of low-bush blueberries, also called "wild" blueberries, on the world market has quadrupled in the past two decades and the price is dropping because people aren't buying enough.
Blueberry growers in Maine say the lower Canadian dollar also makes it hard to complete with their neighbours to the north.
A petition with 400 signatures is calling for a duty on all Canadian wild blueberries, not just those from Quebec.
Some are worried such a duty would discourage growers from shipping to the U.S., a $25-million business in Canada.
Flanaghan said the duty wouldn't hurt Maritime growers selling to his plant in P.E.I.
The president of Nova Scotia's biggest blueberry producer says that doesn't make sense.
"I don't understand how he can get great support from Canadians and have a factory in P.E.I., and at the same time have a very active policy against the Canadian industry," said John Bragg of Oxford Frozen Foods.
Maritime wild blueberry producers are scheduled to meet next week to develop a strategy against the duty proposal.