Whatcom County is the largest producer of red raspberries in the world, producing over 60% of the U.S. crop. Most local raspberry growers freeze or process their berries. This allows them to ensure that the raspberries are picked at the peak of ripeness, for maximum flavor and juiciness. However, there are concerns about unfair practices by foreign competitors putting local producers at risk.
U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer has requested a full evaluation of the Washington raspberry industry. According to a Capital Press article, Lighthizer and the Washington State Raspberry Commission director, Henry Bierlink, fear that Whatcom County’s markets are at risk due to imports from Chile, Mexico, Canada, and Serbia.
“We are finding ourselves out-priced by imports. What we can’t get is good data on what’s coming into our country,” Bierlink told Capital Press.
Raspberries imported from foreign markets often do not meet the same stringent requirements for pesticide use, environmental impacts, and worker safety as Washington-produced berries, allowing foreign growers to sell their product at a lower cost.
There is also concern about foreign growers selling their excess product below cost in U.S. markets, a practice known as “dumping.” Although this practice is prohibited by U.S. trade laws, it can be difficult to prove.
Additionally, Washington growers are worried about misleading labeling on frozen mixed berry packs imported from Canada, which often fail to accurately identify the country of origin of the fruit.
Lighthizer’s letter requests an investigation into these concerns is completed within the next 14 months.
Through investigation by the U.S. International Trade Commission, local growers will be ensured fair competition in the red raspberry market. The full letter by Lighthizer is available below.