Hillborough County, Florida — The Florida Strawberry Festival in Plant City continues this weekend. Still, it’s also a time to highlight the struggles local farmers are currently experiencing.
“We’re seeing a 10% to 15% increase each year since COVID, so we’re up 30% right now,” said Matt Parke, a fourth-generation strawberry farmer at Plant City.
Parke said sales are growing as people become more health conscious due to the pandemic, but not enough to fight inflation.
But that’s not the biggest problem plaguing the industry. Farmers say it’s a cross-border berry.
“Our biggest threat is Mexico. As you know, we have to deal with an influx of berries across the southern border into the United States.”
Florida is the second largest strawberry-producing state in the United States, after California, and is valued at over $300 million. According to the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.
detail Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Statistics From 2001 to 2021, Florida lost nearly 32% of the domestic strawberry market share, while Mexico gained 240%.
“The problem is that if you import a lot of products from other countries, the price will be very low. They don’t have the same rules. Their government gives them huge subsidies. Their labor costs are probably his 15% of our costs, and labor costs are our biggest expense,” explained Chairman David Hill. Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association (FFVA)“Trying to stay in business is very difficult.”
Another study by the University of Florida in 2018 U.S. farms were found to pay strawberry pickers between $1.75 and $3 for a flat berry, depending on the season. This compares to Mexico where we spent 15 pesos or about $1 per flat.
“I think probably in the next 10-15 years, Mexico will own the vegetable and fruit market and there will be no growth in the US. A foreign country that delivers us all our fruits and vegetables. ”
Hill said he agrees that local farms could go extinct in the next decade.
Hill also runs Southern Hill Farms, which, like many other small farms, said it added a “U-Pick” business to give locals the experience of picking produce.
“It’s safe to say that the federal government needs to step in to save Florida’s farmers, all farmers,” ABC Action News reporter Stassy Olmos asked Hill.
“What we’ve been asking the federal government to do is step in and regulate not only what we do, but how much is supplied by other countries. Either we allow it to exceed the mark, or we don’t, or we impose a tariff if it exceeds the mark,” exclaimed Hill.
Farmers hope and pray for federal help, but all U.S. consumers can do is check the labels before buying, they say.
“Not just my family business, but all U.S. farming businesses require U.S. consumers to buy locally grown food.
Florida Agriculture Director Wilton Simpson said in an email:
“Current federal policies are one of the biggest obstacles to the continued success of Florida farmers and ranchers. We continue to advocate for common sense considerations in these policies that recognize the important role Florida plays on the planet.”
We also reached out to the U.S. Department of Agriculture to ask what local farmers are doing to survive as imports rise.
Parksdale Farms plans to sell strawberries in Publix stores next year. It is now available in several states outside of Florida and at the local produce market Parksdale He Market.
click here To see USDA weekly strawberry shipments in the US
click here To read the latest overall farm forecast from USDA.
https://www.abcactionnews.com/news/state/florida-strawberry-farmers-say-mexico-imports-threaten-their-future Florida strawberry farmers say imports from Mexico threaten their future