The Longueuil-based Quebec Strawberry and Raspberry Growers Association is promoting the creation of a Canadian strawberry promotion and research council.

With 86% of all strawberries consumed in Canada coming from the U.S., and with Agriculture Canada cutting back on research funds, the time is right, said executive director Caroline Thibault, who spent last fall promoting the idea to growers and marketing associations in eight provinces.

“In Quebec we sell more than 52% of our volume in supermarkets,” she said, “while some provinces have no local berries going into supermarkets.”

The new association would be funded through a per-pound charge levied equally on local producers and on importers, said Thibault, who envisions an annual budget of $2.2 million, with 70% for promotion and 30% for research.

She plans to attend PMA’s Fresh Summit in New Orleans in October to talk to major U.S. growers about the plan. Feedback to date has been positive, she said.

Importers would benefit because the association would promote strawberries year-round, she said, while Canadian berries are available only two to five months a year with the help of day-neutral plants.

The money collected would be divided among the provinces according to population and volume produced, she said. That would net Ontario more than $300,000 to be spent by the province’s produce marketing association in consultation with the berry growers association.

“We’re still working on the details,” she said, “but we think the promotion is a win-win for growers, chain stores and importers.”

Even if the idea doesn’t come to fruition, she said, the Canadian tour provided a fantastic networking opportunity with growers in other provinces.