The long stretch of warm weather has offered three months of near-perfect conditions for the blueberry crops of the Fraser Valley, and producers are expecting their best year ever.
Debbie Etsell, director of the B.C. Blueberry Council, said last year there were 95 million pounds of blueberries grown in B.C., and this year’s estimate is 105 million.
She said some of that is the result of increased planting that has been taking place since 2008, as prices increase. It has brought the total crop to 23,000 acres in the province, most of that between Richmond and Chilliwack, and she estimated 40 per cent of the crop is grown in the Abbotsford area.
But it is also the result of great weather. June was cold and wet, but the berries survived, and the crop has thrived in the sunshine.
“The weather was awesome,” said Etsell. “When June finished – we couldn’t have asked for a better July-August-September.”
The harvest was so bountiful that it was difficult to get enough farm labourers in the fields when they were needed, she said.
“It was tough for them to get the crop picked off right when they needed to,” she said.
There are still varieties of blueberries ripening and being picked for the fresh market.
Abbotsford is also home to packers and processors who produce blueberry jam, yogurt filling and other products. Mike Phillips of Berryhill Foods said the bumper crop was good for processors too.
“It’s a growing industry. Every year is a little better,” he said. “We had a good year. The quality was really good for the processed berries, and our grower support was very good.”
Etsell noted that the farm gate value of the blueberry crop was approximately $150 million last year, and she expects it to be at least that again this year.
“Abbotsford’s got a great industry in its own backyard.”