Buy more blueberries, plead N.S. producers battling oversupply
PC leader Jamie Baillie introduces bill for government-run institutions to serve blueberries
A year's supply of wild blueberries is sitting in storehouses across the province — and producers want to get them on Nova Scotians' plates.
"In this part of the world, we should have wild blueberries on the menu every day," said Peter Rideout, executive director of the Wild Blueberry Producers Association of Nova Scotia.
Three stellar growing seasons produced a glut of wild blueberries on the market this year, driving prices down to about 48 cents per kilogram, according to Rideout. Growers need to see those prices double before they make a profit, he said.
While Nova Scotia has largely relied on exporting berries to Asia, Europe and the U.S., Rideout said it's time to look for a solution locally.
"Wild blueberries should be on everyone's mind here," he said. "We're in the land of wild blueberries."
Progressive Conservative Leader Jamie Baillie agrees.
The MLA for Cumberland South introduced the Buy Local Wild Blueberries Act in the legislature this week, a bill that would require prisons, universities and hospitals to help with the oversupply by serving up blueberries.
Baillie said it makes sense for provincially run institutions to buy berries at a low price, all while helping to ensure farmers in constituencies like his stay afloat.
"Left on its own, the market will correct as blueberry growers go out of business and I do not want to see that," Baillie said. "These are very important rural Nova Scotia jobs."
Signs of a turnaround
Rideout likes the idea even as he sees signs that the market is beginning to correct itself.
This year, an estimated 20 million kilograms of wild blueberries were produced, down from about 27 million kilograms in the previous three years, he said.
There were drier conditions across Atlantic Canada, especially in New Brunswick, and producers were being selective about where to farm.
Still, the glut "hanging over" the market concerns Rideout.
"The indicators are good that the market will improve and come back into balance, but right now we're concerned about this low price for producers."
With files from CBC's Information Morning