The Department of Natural Resources has finalized a land swap with a subsidiary of Oxford Frozen Foods Ltd. so the company can create a new blueberry operation in northeastern New Brunswick.

Acadian Farms Development Partnership, a subsidiary of the Nova Scotia-based frozen food company, exchanged 6,361 hectares with the provincial government.

pei blueberries

The Department of Natural Resources has agreed to a land swap with Nova Scotia's Oxford Frozen Foods Ltd. (CBC)

Natural Resources Minister Paul Robichaud said in a statement the exchange will allow the company to generate jobs in the area.

“I am happy that this exchange will enable Oxford Frozen Foods to move on to the construction of a new processing facility that will increase the opportunity for the region to flourish as a leader in the blueberry development sector,” said Robichaud, who represents an Acadian Peninsula riding in the legislature.

The northeastern region has the highest unemployment level in New Brunswick. In May 2014, the jobless rate in the Campbellton-Miramichi zone was 20.9 per cent.

In October 2013, Oxford Frozen Foods announced plans to invest $184 million for a blueberry operation in the region. The investment includes the construction of a $50-million, 12,600-sq.-metre processing facility.

300 jobs over 10 years

The company estimated the project would create 300 jobs in northeastern New Brunswick over a 10-year period.

The investment is expected to add as much as $8.6 million annually to the province's gross domestic product, according to the government.

Invest NB is providing a $37.5 million interest-bearing repayable loan toward the construction of the processing facility.

A group of blueberry growers said in July 2013 that the deal “does not make sense for the area or the province.”

The Department of Agriculture, Aquaculture and Fisheries estimates 14.8 million kilograms of blueberries are harvested annually in the province. There are roughly 13,400 hectares of wild blueberries, according to the department.

New Brunswick produces 25 per cent of Canada’s total production of wild blueberries. Roughly 70 per cent of the province’s blueberries are grown in Kent County and the Acadian Peninsula.

The department estimates the crop sales are roughly $20 million a year.

A provincial government report says five per cent of the crop is picked and sold fresh, while the remainder is transported to freezing plants.