Though some look to a suspension agreement (which sets floor prices on imports), Guan says Florida’s strawberry sector is much smaller than Florida’s tomato industry and is dwarfed by California’s berry production.
As many grower-shippers in both states are invested in Mexican production, a dumping lawsuit wouldn’t be likely, he and others said.
Mexican tomatoes are imported through a suspension agreement, first put in place in 1996 to halt a dumping investigation.
Rather than going the lawsuit route, the Dover-based Florida Strawberry Growers Association is fortifying production and marketing and studying competition.
Florida growers are examining the vulnerabilities of their competitors as well as their own and seeing what they can do better, said Ted Campbell, executive director.
He said any competitive advantage is transient and that Florida’s growers need to pay attention to the challenge and improve varieties.
“Mexico is a valid competitor and is doing what any competitor should do and they’re pretty good at it,” Campbell said.
“We have to make sure we are minding our business correctly so we can remain competitive. Competition can either kill you or make you a lot better.”
One solution is to drive more demand to accept increasing world production and start building consumer recognition for Florida’s fruit.
During a July lunch with Florida Gov. Rick Scott, the governor asked Campbell to name the five things that make Florida strawberry growers better than anyone else.
Campbell said he likes that business logic and said any business is in trouble if it can’t list its competitive advantages.
Why should the consumer care? And what makes Florida berries different?
Those are questions Florida’s strawberry industry needs to tackle.
Because growers ship in a commodity world, the work will be in getting consumers to recognize those advantages.
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