Cranberries are a growing concern in Quebec, producing more than 100 million pounds of fruit a year.
The volume of harvested fruit increased from 86 million pounds in 2006 to nearly 120 million pounds last year, said Monique Thomas, executive director of the Association of Quebec Cranberry Producers, Notre Dame de Lourdes.
That makes Quebec the third largest cranberry producer in North America, after Wisconsin and Massachusetts, Thomas said.
Quebec is also the world’s largest producer of organic cranberries, helped by a cool climate that discourages pests.
Thomas said the province boasts three processing plants for value-added products.
The production area, primarily in central Quebec, doubled from 4,000 acres in 2006 to 8,000 acres last year, she said, while the number of growers increased from 45 to 75.
About 85% of production is shipped to the U.S. for processing.
“Processors such as Ocean Spray are looking for fruit, and many Quebec growers have contracts this year,” Thomas said.
After the shock of 2009, when the recession curtailed U.S. demand dramatically, prices and demand have increased steadily, she said, which has encouraged more growers to get into the berry business.
The slowdown forced Quebec growers to look for new markets, which they found in Europe and Asia.
While most cranberries are processed into juice or dried, Thomas said the fresh market is growing. The tart berries now appear in many recipes, and they’ve become a popular ingredient in baked goods and frozen yogurt.
“The fresh market in Quebec is underdeveloped, but we hope to have more next year,” she said.
It takes three years for a cranberry field to produce fruit.
In January, the APCQ joined the Quebec Produce Marketing Association as an official partner in its “I love 5 to 10 servings a day” campaign.
“Cranberries, which are chock full of antioxidants, are a booming industry in Quebec,” said QPMA executive director Sophie Perreault.
“We’re hoping all the excitement will make their benefits more widely recognized and help increase production,” she said.
Thomas said APCQ is actively promoting the health benefits of cranberries, and hopes to publish a booklet with the QPMA to promote consumption.