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Building better berries

The federal government is investing $2.8 million to help blueberry, raspberry and strawberry growers improve their product by developing pest- and disease-resistant varieties and better production methods.

The announcement was made at a Langley press conference held at a local berry farm on Thursday (Jan. 23).

Ottawa's $2.8 million will have another $1 million added by the industry, coming from the B.C. Blueberry Council, Raspberry Industry Development Council, B.C. Cranberry Marketing Commission and the B.C. Strawberry Growers Association.

Langley member of parliament Mark Warawa spoke at the outdoor event, saying  the funds "will help the berry industry in the Fraser Valley and across the Lower Mainland to grow and prosper."

The actual announcement was made by Parliamentary Secretary Pierre Lemieux, speaking on behalf of federal agriculture minister Gerry Ritz.

"Key investments in innovation like this one will allow berry farmers to stay ahead of the competition and remain competitive in the global marketplace," Lemieux said, adding the research will benefit berry growers across Canada.

The money will go to the Lower Mainland Horticulture Improvement Association (LMHIA).

Association chair David Mutz called the financial support "invaluable."

"It means our world-renowned breeding program will be able to continue to produce top quality raspberry, strawberry and blueberry cultivars [varieties] in the future which will be good for both farmers and consumers," Mutz said.

Sukh Kahlon, an Abbotsford grower who sits on both the Raspberry Industry Development Council and the BC Blueberry Council, said the industry needs to continually innovate.

"We need to engage in projects that will help growers and the industry remain on the cutting edge and be competitive on the global stage," Kahlon said.

The provincial ministry of agriculture, B.C. Institute of Technology and University of the Fraser Value will be involved in the program as well.

The B.C. berry industry is said to be one of the fastest-growing sectors in agriculture, according to a federal government estimate.

Berry exports have doubled over the last decade, rising to $211 million last year.

 

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