Annual meeting for 150 growers goes Tuesday

Steve Sharratt
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The recent expansion of the Wyman’s processing plant in Montague is another boost to Prince Edward Island’s blueberry industry.

MONTAGUE — Wild blueberries are spreading like wildfire these days thanks to consumer demand and the success of a marketing levy that will be highlighted at the upcoming annual meeting Tuesday.

“Blueberries are the only crop in P.E.I. growing in both acreage and farms,” says Brudenell grower David MacNearney. “The industry is growing very fast.”

Growers across the Island will gather in Cornwall April 8 for the annual general meeting at the Dutch Inn and a 10-year-old per pound levy is paying off.

“We’ve got a great industry that saw a record-breaking level of production in 2013,” said MacNearney, president of the Wild Blueberry growers association. “We harvested over 16 million pounds and our rate of growth outpaces any other area in North America.”

The recent expansion of the Wyman’s processing plant near Morell is another boost to the province, which has about 150 blueberry growers and a cash crop of about $12 million annually.

The day-long industry conference will feature topics from pests, habitat, and global market outlooks, along with the hiring of the first ever part-time executive assistant.

“A few years ago we would not have been able to afford this,” said association treasurer John Handrahan. “But with our levy income growing we can now make positive steps in doing more for growers.”

The levy, in place for over 10 years, sees all growers contributing eight cents per pound for promotion, education and research. The development of a harvestable blueberry field can take more than ten years.

One project supported is to examine commercially available and novel essential oils for pest controls.

“This is really quite exciting,” said MacNearney. “Our farmers are all about bringing the goodness of a wild product to the consumer. If these plant oils help us reduce or eliminate some pests, it would be a great benefit.”

The levy has provided a promotional budget of over $80,000 for the association to market globally.

“Growers have been seeing good returns lately, with market demand keeping up to the increases in production,” said MacNearney. “While not all producers are making money, the trend of the last few years is quite encouraging.”

Organizations: Dutch Inn

Geographic location: P.E.I., Iceland, Cornwall North America Morell

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