British Columbia finished its fresh blueberry season with a crop estimated at 107 million pounds — below last year’s record of 115 million, but among its largest ever.
The region benefited from warm weather from spring through summer, Debbie Etsell, executive director of the Vancouver-based British Columbia Blueberry Council, said in a news release.
“This resulted in blueberries that were of a very good quality and extra sweet,” she said.
The council represents more than 800 growers in Abbotsford, Maple Ridge, Pitt Meadows, Surrey, Richmond, Delta, Langley and other locations.
British Columbia has around 25,000 acres of blueberries.
But warm weather late last summer and fall led to poor bud formation and lower yield this year in some fields, accounting for the drop from record volume.
The current year’s spring warmth, moreover, advanced and matured bloom sooner than usual. Some fields required more bees than were available for optimum levels of pollination. Berries from early- and mid-season varieties ripened in quick succession, resulting in unusually high supply at the start of July, according to the council.
“All of North America’s biggest blueberry growing regions had strong seasons,” Etsell said in the release. “With our early start there was a lot of overlap, and competition for space on the shelves. British Columbia is usually the last region to come into season, so the problem was compounded for us, and our producers definitely had to work harder to get blueberries into stores with so much other fruit already out there.”
The crop evaluation followed news of a Canadian trade agreement with the European Union that’s expected to open markets and decrease import taxes.
“The (British Columbia) Blueberry Council and our growers are looking forward to a more open business relationship with the E.U.,” Etsell said. Blueberry exports to the European Union and marketing efforts there have been in place to prepare for the agreement.
“It’s our hope that the deal will remove the current E.U. tariff on fresh and frozen blueberries, removing a significant barrier to us expanding exports to this market,” she said.