Ottawa invests $6 million in Morell blueberry plant

Wyman's of P.E.I. to use funding for new processing technology to sort, inspect and clean blueberries

Jim Day
Published on March 11, 2014

ACOA Minister Rob Moore chats with Ed Flannagan, CEO and president of Jasper Wyman and Son, at a news conference at the Morell blueberry facility Tuesday.

©Guardian photo by Jim Day

Wyman's of P.E.I. is growing into a key piece of the Maine-based blueberry company, says the CEO and president of Jasper Wyman and Son.

"We really view this as a major operation for Wyman's," Ed Flannagan told The Guardian during a visit to the facility in Morell Tuesday.

"Wyman's has been in business since 1874. We're still owned by the Wyman's family. We do blueberries and we see P.E.I. as something that, you know, 100 years from now we are still going to be doing blueberries on P.E.I.''

Flannagan joined several other players in the blueberry industry for the announcement of $6 million in loans from the federal government to help the company introduce cutting-edge processing technology at the plant in Morell.

Once the equipment is in place, the company will be better positioned to wash, separate, sort, inspect and clean its high-valued blueberries and get the product to its international customers in its purest form.

"At this stage here in March if we go out into the factory we're going to see walls up and concrete being poured (but) not much innovation,'' said Flannagan.

"But what will be in place by, well I hope by July 1, will be a processing line that will have several pieces of equipment that have never been done before in the blueberry industry.''

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada is investing $5 million in a repayable loan from the AgriInnovation Program and another $1 million loan is coming from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) through its Business Development Program.

"Right now it's a tax advantage to do business in Canada versus the U.S.,'' said Flannagan.

"Taxes are costs. My job as a CEO is to grow the business and reduce the costs. And right now P.E.I. is a much better place to get both of those two things.''

Minister of State (ACOA) Rob Moore, who toured the P.E.I. facility Tuesday, says the federal government recognizes that increasing innovation and productivity are key factors for business growth and economic prosperity.

"I am pleased to announce ACOA's support to Jasper Wyman and Son Canada for the purchase of innovative equipment to increase productivity, which will enable the company to meet the growing demand for its products, particularly in the Asian export markets,'' he said.

In October, the company announced it would be doubling its capacity and workforce at the Morell operation with help from the province.

The provincial government said at the time the expansion will see Wyman's workforce grow from 25 full-time and 70 seasonal jobs to 50 full-time and 140 seasonal jobs.

The government is giving the business $18.5 million with $16 million of that in the form of a repayable loan.

Wade Dover, director of operations with Wyman's of P.E.I., says the blueberry industry "has been growing leaps and bounds.''

Canada is the world's number one producer and exporter of wild blueberries.

In 2013, Canada exported $196 million worth of wild blueberries with approximately 100 million pounds of those berries grown in Atlantic Province.