New Brunswick

Blueberry growers resist plan for processing plant

Blueberry growers in the Acadian Peninsula are resisting a proposal that could see a Nova Scotia company establish a processing plant in northeastern New Brunswick.

Nova Scotia's Oxford Frozen Foods is considering a processing facility

Blueberry growers in the Acadian Peninsula are resisting a proposal that could see a Nova Scotia company establish a processing plant in northeastern New Brunswick.

The provincial government is reportedly negotiating with Nova Scotia-based Oxford Frozen Foods.

The proposal could see the company establish a processing plant in the Acadian Peninsula, where many growers have their crops.

Jean-Maurice Landry, the president of a blueberry growers’ association in the area, said members of his group endorse the idea of a processing plant, but they have concerns with the Oxford Frozen Foods plan.

"In this case, our expertise, our analysis, shows that this deal does not make sense for the area or for the province," he said.

Landry said the growers are also concerned about any deal that could include giving the Nova Scotia company access to Crown land.

"We find it most unfortunate that an outside processor, in this case Oxford Frozen Foods, would come into the picture, go through the back door, using money, influence, political connections and so forth to get land that we've been waiting for, for generations here," Landry said.

Landry said growers who want to expand have to go through a lengthy process if they want to use Crown land. 

The blueberry growers’ association is demanding the provincial government study the economic impact of a new plant.

Economic Development Minister Paul Robichaud, who represents a riding in the Acadian Peninsula, could not be reached for comment on Friday.

Oxford Frozen Foods did not respond to calls to discuss the proposal.

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.

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