The Offshoring of American Agriculture – Produce Blue Book


You can tell the year you are in by the keywords that are launched.

An example from this year is relocation.

It is the opposite of offshoring. It is about bringing back to the United States industries that had moved abroad

New federal program assesses “U.S. defense and public health industrial bases, information technology, transportation, and supply chains for food and agriculture” with a view to possible relocation, according to Thomas Industry Reports.

However, for many fruits and vegetables, offshoring continues to progress, with few possibilities of turnaround. A recent article in UC-Davis Rural Migration News doesn’t tell us anything new, but it does summarize the situation in Florida.

“Florida has lost market share to Mexican imports of peppers, blueberries, tomatoes and strawberries,” the article said. “For example, Florida in 2000 supplied 46 percent of the peppers consumed in the United States between November and June; by 2020, Florida’s share of a larger pepper market was 12%. “

For field-grown round tomatoes, Florida’s market share increased from 63% to 30% between 2000 and 2020.

On the other hand, “this year, Mexico should export 1.8 million tonnes of tomatoes to its northern neighbor, a record,” reports The Economist. “Last year, tomato exports alone were worth about $ 2.3 billion.”

As for strawberries, “the volume of strawberries consumed between November and March more than doubled between 2000 and 2020, with most of the increase due to imports from Mexico while production declined in both California from South and Florida, ”adds the Rural Migration News article. .

As usual, the causes of this trend are complex: the development of varieties (such as blueberries) that can be grown in a warmer climate; high labor costs in the United States; the pressures of urbanization in Florida and California; and the increased desire of consumers to have access to fresh produce all year round.

“Producers in Florida are complaining that Mexican exporters have lower production costs, so despite higher shipping costs, their products are cheaper in US markets,” says Rural Migration News , echoing a widely held claim.

One small detail: From a business perspective, a competitive advantage does not necessarily indicate unfair business practices, which include “government subsidies in the countries of origin” or low-cost dumping in the US market.

In these words, the fact that labor is cheaper in Mexico is not an unfair advantage, and it would not be unless the Mexican government can prove that it guarantees the wages of farm workers. .

Of course, the ambiguities here provide rich ground for trial.

Relocation of products is not quite the same as that of manufacturing. An American automaker can set up a plant in Monterrey, Mexico, which can completely supplant its equivalent in the United States. completely supplant national equivalents.

Nevertheless, the trends are pointing abroad. Another example: asparagus. “The land area of ​​the United States is currently only about a third of what it was 15 years ago due to increased imports from Central and South America.”

“In 2019, the total asparagus production was 74.37 million pounds. About 502.4 million pounds of fresh asparagus were imported in 2017, mainly from Mexico, Peru and Chile.

In short, as the United States tries to relocate key industries, the trends appear to be pointing in the opposite direction for fresh fruits and vegetables.

It wouldn’t be nice to end this article without a silver liner, so let me mention a counterexample. Since 2013, “Mexican marijuana has been largely supplanted by domestically produced marijuana,” according to the Drug Enforcement Administration.

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