If only fresh U.S. blueberries would be accepted by China, American growers would benefit from a booming market with lots of upside potential, trade officials say.
Chinese consumer demand for blueberries has been rapidly growing, but the country does not yet allow in fresh product from the U.S.
The issue is currently being handled by the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, said Mark Ford, the USDA Agricultural Trade Office Beijing director. “It’s one of our top priorities.”
China’s blueberry imports have grown from 692 tons to 8,722 tons between 2012 and 2016, with the trade value growing from $4.6 million to $78.4 million, according to a report published at the 2017 International Blueberry Organization Summit last fall in southwest China, the Beijing-based Xinhua news agency reported.
Xinhua reported that during the first seven months of 2017, China’s blueberry imports registered an annual growth rate of 42.7 percent, the report said.
China’s per capita consumption of blueberries is only a fraction of an ounce per year, compared to 3.3 pounds in the U.S., which means the Chinese market is full of potential, said Felipe Juillerat, president of the Chilean Blueberry Committee, Xinhua reported.
China’s fresh blueberry imports come from Canada, Chile, Peru and Mexico, Ford said.
“Some of the major importers here have stated that blueberries from Canada typically don’t sell very well in China since the harvest season overlaps with domestic product,” he said.
“However, it remains to be seen how U.S. fresh blueberries would do once the market opens for us,” Ford said.
An indicator of what would happen once the market opens to U.S. fresh blueberries is the continued success of frozen and dried blueberries from the U.S., Ford said.
The baking industry in China has expanded, which has increased U.S. exports of dried and frozen product, Ford said.
“Also, e-commerce platforms continue to push U.S. product to customers, and our frozen/dried product is typically better than our competitors’, so that’s great news for the Capital Press’ coverage area,” Ford said.