Blueberry growers in the Maritimes struggle to break even
Growers are getting less money from processing companies compared to growers in Quebec and Maine
It's blueberry season in the Maritimes, but many growers are having a difficult time breaking even.
"It's very difficult. I am somewhat demoralized by the price for sure," said Russell Weir, owner of McKay's Blueberries in Pennfield, N.B.
Weir said the price of blueberries is exactly the same as when he bought his blueberry farm in 1988.
"That summer we picked and sold our berries and received 50 cents a pound. It's 27 years later, we receive 50 cents a pound," said Weir.
"The cost of production has naturally gone way way up. And it's very very difficult to even break even."
Last year, most blueberry growers in the Maritimes received 55 cents a pound for their yields.
The price is set by the processing companies. The majority of blueberries growers produce are bought by processing companies, to be made into jams, and used for other food products, such as pies and muffins.
The price of fresh berries sold at markets and stores is higher, but that usually only counts for a small portion of blueberry growers' sales.
'Fight for our survival'
The price has been higher in Quebec and Maine, which doesn't sit well with Ralph Thompson, a blueberry farmer in Cumberland County, Nova Scotia.
"My feelings are that the companies, the processors, owe us 15 cents a pound on our 2014 crop," said Thompson.
The processors, owe us 15 cents a pound on our 2014 crop.- Ralph Thompson, Nova Scotia blueberry grower
As for this year, Thompson said if something doesn't change, many growers' livelihood will be in jeopardy.
"A number of us feel we need an independent growers association to fight for our survival," said Thompson.
Weir and Thompson aren't sure why farmers get more money for their yields in Quebec and Maine and why prices in the Maritimes are so low.
Three years ago, blueberry farmers in New Brunswick received 80 cents a pound for their crops, while their Quebec counterparts earned close to $1 a pound, according the Northeast Wild Blueberry Growers Association.