Import Competition in the California Strawberry Sector

Place: California • Date: 2007 • Partner: California Strawberry Commission 

Project Summary

Increasing competition from Chinese frozen strawberry imports is one among several interrelated factors that are currently driving change in the California strawberry industry. Statistics on China’s strawberry industry are not collected regularly at a national level, and thus precise trends within the industry are a matter of debate even in China. What is clear is that China’s strawberry production, exports, and consumption are growing, and that the country is quickly catching up with and in some cases even outpacing California in strawberry processing capacity and quality.

Expanding processing capacity in China will affect both strawberry processors and growers in California. However, the nature and extent of these impacts will ultimately depend on the share and composition of frozen strawberry production that remains in the U.S., and the California strawberry industry’s ability to cultivate new markets for fresh strawberries. Ironically, China presents one of the greatest potential markets, even though it simultaneously threatens home markets with lower priced substitutes.

This project entailed a comprehensive assessment of the state of the sector in both China and the US. Taken together this market remains ripe for sustained growth. Our analysis indicates, however, that California producers can maintain and even enhance their competitiveness by promoting the quality of their product. They may have to cede processing activity to Chinese competitors or supply chain partners, but agronomic conditions in California will remain much more favorable to rising productivity and quality. By taking the quality “high road”, California producers can dominate higher value markets across Asia and the West, delegating (lower value added) processing where necessary to facilitate market entry of their primary product.

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