Georgia blueberry growers want protection from Mexican competition
Today, Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black will ask for support for the state’s blueberry growers when he testifies at a U.S. Trade Representative hearing on reining in the expansion of Mexican specialty crop exports.
Mexican farmers continue to increase the size of their blueberry production as the country sells more of the fruit to US buyers. According to Black that is doing real damage to American producers who can’t compete on a price basis.
Joseph Cornelius, owner of J&B Blueberry Farms in Manor, places most of the blame on cheap labor south of the border: “We feel we’re at a competitive disadvantage with Mexico,” Cornelius, who stressed that labor costs in Mexico are extremely low -sometimes around $1 an hour- while he pays his employees between $15 and $20 an hour, told agri-pulse.com.
Cornelius, who is the chairman of the Georgia Blueberry Commission and will be testifying before USTR Thursday, says that while Mexico was exporting roughly 6 million pounds of blueberries to the U.S. in 2013, Mexico is expected to ship more than 50 million pounds north of the border.