British Columbia

B.C. blueberry crop under the weather

B.C.'s lucrative blueberry crop is taking a hit from the weather as parts of the province have had to endure the third coldest April on record and a cooler-than-usual early May.
This April and May's wet, chilly weather is making B.C. blueberry farmers nervous about the season's crops, the CBC's Leah Hendry reports 2:05

B.C.'s lucrative blueberry crop is taking a hit from the weather as parts of the province have had to endure the third coldest April on record and a cooler-than-usual early May.

Abbotsford farmer Kerry Seale's blueberry bushes are usually in full bloom by this time of year, but the wet, cold weather this spring has made it difficult for workers to even get into the fields.

The bees, which are vital for pollination, aren't flying far from their hives, because they won't venture out until the temperature reaches about 13 C.

"There's only been three or four of those days in April," said Seale. "We expect more of them in May, but they are also sensitive to wind and rain."

B.C.'s blueberry industry accounts for about 95 per cent of the high-bush blueberries in Canada.

The anti-oxidant rich fruit is in high demand outside the country, too, making it the number-one exported fruit.

"Our farm-gate value is somewhere between $85 [million] to $90 million," said Debbie Etsell, executive director of the B.C. Blueberry Council. "And that doesn't include all the labour and the further processing value added as well."

Three weeks behind

The crops can still be saved if there are enough warmer days between now and mid-June, even though growth currently is behind by about three weeks, said Seale.

Last year, the bees were out by the end of April.

"If we don't get the flying days for the bees, then there'll be less pollination and there will be smaller and fewer blueberries," said Seale."The more time the bee touches the flower, the bigger the blueberries get."

Seale tries to keep a sense of humour about what he can't control.

"It's a bit like life, it keeps on going whether you like it or not."

With files from the CBC's Laura Hendry