Oxford (Staff) – Nova Scotia wild blueberry producers are anticipating a bumper year as they begin harvesting this year’s crop.
Jeff Orr, president of the Wild Blueberry Producers Association of Nova Scotia, says he expects the 2014 crop to meet or beat last year’s total of just under $40 million pounds.
“From what I can see, especially in Cumberland County, it’s looking really good,” he said. “Some fields near Parrsboro are down but many hills that were not great last year are this year.”
Plant pollination is key to a good crop and Orr says this season’s pollination was the best in recent years. Dry conditions certainly aided the pollinators and reduced the incidents of blight dramatically. Blight has been a serious issue for producers the past few years.
Moisture the past several weeks has been beneficial and a good rain still wouldn’t hurt.
Orr says this province cannot meet the demand for pollinators, especially honey bees.
The industry, Beekeepers’ Association and government are working closely to expand this province’s apiaries.
Oxford Frozen Foods, with about 24,000 acres of wild blueberries, is the largest fruit farm in the world. It maintains over 12,000 bee hives, making it the largest apiary in this country, but uses 60,000 hives.
“There were more honeybees available within the province this year, but that’s because, with special permit, we were able to import 5,000 hives,” said Orr. “That’s still not sufficient. We need a restricted and carefully monitored importation of pollinators program.”
Government, in collaboration with Dalhousie University Agriculture developed a beekeeper’s course which is beginning to attract new beekeepers, some of whom will become commercial apaiiasts.
“We’s optimistic we can grow the pollination capacity in this province but for the foreseeable future we need to rely on importing,” said Orr.
Price for this year’s crop should be favourable to growers. What is being sold now is this year’s wild blueberries, not coming from cold storage. Growers recently received a welcomed $.05 per pound bonus on last year’s production.
Price depends on the overall crop which, along with Nova Scotia, includes Maine, Quebec and New Brunswick. And they’re all looking good.
The demand for wild blueberries continues to grow. More markets for this premium, speciality are opening up in Europe and Asia.
Orr credits the Oxford Food Group for its innovations within the industry and its marketing strategy for the wild blueberry.
“I really don’t know where we’d be if not for them,” he said.
Weeks, C. (2014). Wild Blueberry Producers Anticipate Bumper Crop. The Oxford Journal.