Nova Scotia wild blueberry industry anticipating rock bottom prices
Farmers say some fields may not be worth harvesting this year
Wild blueberry producers in Nova Scotia are facing a challenging year with a glut of berries on the market, higher production costs and the lowest prices expected in years.
Barron Blois, president of the Wild Blueberry Producers Association of Nova Scotia, said prices are expected to bottom out to the lowest he can remember — just 30 cents a pound. Three years ago, producers got 60 cents a pound for their berries.
Blois says the market low means he and other producers from around the Atlantic region will have to re-evaluate which fields are even worth harvesting next year.
"We'll have to take into consideration the fields that we have and those fields that are lower producing, that we'll have to maybe rest those fields for a few years while the market improves," said Blois.
Wild blueberry specialist Peter Burgess said it's a unique approach that's gaining popularity.
"Rather than lose money on that field, they're going to let it sit and then look at it in two years," he said, noting that some under-producing fields may fill in during that time.
Blois said the industry will have to find more markets for the increased production in order to remain viable.
"I know that that's an ongoing battle but we've got to find ways to do it better in the future or this industry is going to have to downsize dramatically," said Blois.
The wild blueberry harvest will wrap up in mid-September in Nova Scotia. After that, growers will find out the set price from processors.
Cost of harvesting is 15 cents a pound
But Blois says if they drop to 30 cents a pound, it will mean small profits for growers. The cost of harvesting alone is 15 cents a pound, he said, not including fertilizer or the cost of bringing in beehives, which can be $500 an acre.
Burgess says the industry ebbs and flows and is facing a low time.
"If you have a good producing field, you can still make money on that field, but it's just — you have to have a really sharp pencil," said Burgess.