Bumper P.E.I. blueberry crop thanks to good weather, bees

It's a record year for some blueberry growers on Prince Edward Island thanks to good weather and an abundance of bees.

Pleasant surprise for blueberry farmers compared to terrible season for a lot of other berry growers

This year's harvest nearly double that of 2011. (CBC)

It's a record year for some blueberry growers on Prince Edward Island thanks to good weather and an abundance of bees.

For blueberry farmers it was a pleasant surprise compared to the terrible season for a lot of other berry growers in the Maritimes.

West Prince Berry Co-op member John Handrahan’s blueberry fields in Tignish, P.E.I. are picked clean with the record crop off to market.

"We've had some of the best crops we've ever seen. And as a group, we've marketed over a million pounds this year which is the best our co-op has ever been able to ship out," he said.

That's nearly double the last harvest in 2011.

He's still awaiting the final tally from growers in eastern P.E.I.

"We think, overall, the Island will be setting new records for blueberry production," said Handrahan.

He credits warm sunny days, just enough rain, and new rules that allowed the importation of bees for the bumper crop.

The successful blueberry season is in sharp contrast to what other berry growers faced.

Raspberries struggled, and the strawberry yield was decimated by a virus that shortened the growing season.

"Our yield was only maybe 10 per cent of what it should have been. So that was a substantial loss," said Arnie Nabuurs of the P.E.I. Strawberry Growers Association.

Handrahan said trouble could be on the horizon for blueberry growers as well.

Asian fruit flies were detected late in the season.

"It definitely is a risk. In other growing areas, it's wiped out strawberry production in some fields. And we've heard in Maine some fields down there have lost upwards of 25 per cent of the blueberry crop," said Handrahan.

Blueberry harvesting is a growing industry on P.E.I. with more than 2,400 hectares devoted to blueberry production.

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