Local strawberries in season

Although I appreciate being able to eat strawberries-in-winter I still miss those very special strawberries that you could only get only once a year, early summer, in strawberry season. As an economist I would have to say they had that very special taste of scarcity—and scarcity allowed them to provide their growers a quite decent return. Their disappearance happened when such strawberries were forced to compete, marginal cost against marginal cost, with other brutally efficient quasi-strawberries that could be transported overnight, into your local supermarkets, at anytime and in any quantities.

As the world allowed those coming from anywhere at anytime to count as the same as your neighbor’s at-their-right-time strawberries, we—if I may mix a metaphor—mixed apples with pears, created confusion, and destroyed important economic value. This mess in the strawberry patches of the world can still be corrected though. Currently as a result of World Trade Organization’s negotiations only champagne from Champagne can be called champagne and the rest has to be labeled as produced by the M├ęthode Champenoise. If we were to broaden these criteria there is nothing that stops us from marketing any local-strawberries-in-season as strawberries, while requiring all others to label themselves as close-to-being-strawberries berries—and this way all strawberries would survive.

It is quite clear from the awakening of protectionism that something dramatic has to be done, and perhaps a much clearer market segmentation could be the key to keep borders from closing up, and having to wave good-bye to all those ersatz strawberries that even while never the same as their summer cousins, are still quite nice to have in winter. But if the worst happens, let’s find some consolation in the fact that strawberries-in-winter could turn out to be a new and profitable smuggling alternative for some of the uglier cartels, while being much less harmful to us all.