Mexico is the world’s third-largest exporter of berries: blueberries, raspberries, blackberries and strawberries. Less than two decades ago, the industry didn’t even exist. Now it employs more than 100,000 people and garners nearly $1 billion a year.
What’s driving this growth? In part, problems in California and Chile, where farmers have faced challenges, including water constraints, high shipping costs, inadequate labor, and increased regulation (including restrictions placed on pesticide use). So growers have looked elsewhere.
“The same brands that U.S. consumers are used to seeing on supermarket shelves – like Driscoll’s, like Naturipe, like Dole – are sourcing (their berries) in Mexico now,” said Mario Andrade Cárdenas, a grower from Michoacan state who’s the head of the berry exporters’ association.
“Today, Mexico is the principal source of berries for the United States outside of U.S. production,” he said.
Mexican growers are seeking to diversify trade beyond the U.S., and also ship their products to Europe, North Africa, the Middle East and East Asia.
“The consumption of berries just keeps growing. People are eating them for all their anti-oxidant properties, their high fiber and their beneficial effects,” said Casimiro Dávila, purchasing chief for Hortifrut, a Chilean company with major investments in Mexico.
Bonus video: McClatchy DC’s Tim Johnson reports about Mexican berry imports to China.