Covid-19 isn’t a foreseeable problem for raspberry market, but concerns about trade bring the wildcard

Bierlink

Henry Bierlink, Washington State Red Raspberry Commission Director joins Dillion Honcoop on the Farming Show to share the feats of the raspberry industry. For quite some time, the raspberry market has been struggling with trade issues.

Despite the struggles in agriculture with Covid-19, the red raspberry crop this year looks like it will be a “decent one” says Bierlink. 

In contrast, the major issue, as Bierlink and Honcoop point out, is a problem with imports “playing fair”. Though data still needs to be collected to confirm the problem, says Bierlink, the WA Red Raspberry Commission has called for an investigation on trades.

Bierlink says an international trade lawsuit is in question because of unfair regulations. While over half of the red raspberry production in Whatcom County mostly goes toward puree and frozen products, the concern is that fresh market fruit being imported is being brought into the U.S. in the same form, but unknowingly.

All imports coming into the United States are required to be coded according to the type of product they are. According to Bierlink, the Red Raspberry Commission fears that some raspberry products coming in are being labeled incorrectly. In other words, the by-products of fresh market (such as puree and frozen berries) are appearing in the market at a lower price than the local options.

Due to this concern, about a month ago, there was a proposal to move forward with an investigation on red raspberry imports. In fact, Robert Lighthizer, the top representative for U.S. Trade initiated the case. This “fact-finding mission”, as called by Bierlink, will intend to investigate the coding and other regulations on imported red raspberries to ensure a fair market for Whatcom growers.

A dilemma in this has been that prices on local products are not able to maintain. According to Bierlink, the trade rules state that countries that import into the U.S. cannot import under the cost of local growers. Yet, this process, known as dumping, is in question.

Thus, the goal of the investigation will be to discover those facts. As Bierlink says, “We need data to prove that this is happening”. By doing this, the Red Raspberry Commission hopes to create a fair market for both local growers and imports. 

Bierlink’s largest concern as director of the commission is on this trade issue, and frankly not on Covid-19 concerns. He looks forward to working with the investigation as it launches over the next couple weeks with a goal to complete by June 2021.

Hear the full interview and learn more below.