Wyman’s plant to double capacity as demand for fruit seems insatiable
© Guardian photo by Heather Taweel
Premier Robert Ghiz, left, and Ed Flanagan, president of Wyman's P.E.I., announced that Wyman's blueberry plant in Morell will double its capacity and workforce with funding committed Oct. 8.
The world’s appetite for blueberries, the increasingly popular superfood jammed with disease- fighting agents and other nutrients, seems to be endless. Wild blueberries have among the highest antioxidant activity of any fruit, vegetable, spice or seasoning, and are a potent ally in the battle to stay healthy and age well. The benefits for the nervous system, brain health and memory are well-documented.
Surging markets in China, Europe and South America make investments in blueberry production and processing capacity almost a sure thing. In the past five years, blueberry exports from the U.S. and Canada have jumped almost 50 per cent.
So that rosy economic picture should ease the concerns of P.E.I. taxpayers since the province has committed approximately $18 million to the Jasper Wyman and Son blueberry plant in West St. Peters near Morell. That support will see the number of full- time workers double to 50 and part-time workers also double to 150.
The deal officially announced Tuesday will more than double its capacity. Company president Ed Flanagan said that for years Wyman’s had to ship millions of pounds of blueberries off-Island because there wasn’t enough capacity but that problem should be greatly eased with the new state-of-the-art factory, the largest capital project in the Maine company’s history.
The expansion will see close to 20 million pounds of blueberries processed at West St. Peters with the addition of a new cold-storage unit. The financial terms seem reasonable — a $16-million repayable term loan, $1.5 million in tax credits for the expansion, up to $425,000 in labour rebates for job creation, and $75,000 for employee training. It also convinced Wyman’s from looking at N.B. to build that plant.
It was an excellent growing year for blueberries and production hit almost record values. The numbers of bees, so essential in the pollination of the berries, have also rebounded. Of course, Wyman’s have taken remarkable steps to ensure its supply of healthy bees is secure. It has a full-time beekeeper and has converted the huge Four Ports Marine manufacturing facility in Morell into a storage and enhancement area for bees.
The Wyman’s deal also benefits an area much in need of jobs and keeps hundreds of acres in production. Land not suitable for potatoes is usually fine for blueberries. Snacking on a bowlful of fresh blueberries in the morning has become a tradition for many health conscious Islanders and it doesn’t hurt that the berries are very tasty as well.
Polls prove correct
The polling firm Corporate Research Associates in Halifax was probably more relieved Tuesday night than Nova Scotia’s new premier-elect Stephen McNeil. CRA polling had predicted a Liberal majority government from the start of the N.S. provincial election. The numbers seemed skewed, giving the Liberals close to 45 to 48 per cent while the Progressive Conservatives and incumbent NDP were between 25 and 27 per cent.
Election polling in three other provinces has been badly off base and there was a feeling the same could be true in N.S. It seemed hard to accept that a small appliance repairman near Bridgetown in the Annapolis Valley, the 12th child in a family of 17, with very little electoral experience, was going to become the new premier. But Nova Scotians seemed anxious to vote for change and Premier Darrell Dexter was booted after one term, even losing his own seat. McNeil will lead a government of 33 members with the PCs rebounding with 11 seats and the NDP decimated to seven elected.