higher, but in order to do that we need a new variety.” Only a small quantity of IQF berries are produced in B.C., with most either destined for wet pack, picked and washed; straight pack, in pails or drums; or as purees. And, 90 per cent is exported in that form. Production last year was up slightly,
at 22 million pounds, while B.C. imports 40 to 50 million pounds each year. In the 1990s, B.C. production was nearly double that. Year-round, 30 million pounds of raspberries for the fresh market are imported into B.C. Kahlon has tried some of the latest varieties to be released from the Pacific Agri-food Research Centre at Aggasiz, including Chemainus and Malahat, and grows about five acres of both. He says the Malahat is good for the fresh market but not for mechanical harvesting because it’s on the ground before the harvester can pick it. Chemainus makes some growers happy, but it has a light colour and has root rot issues. Tulameen, another new variety from Agassiz’s breeding program, produces a large berry, so it’s a high-end variety, but is best for greenhouse production. It doesn’t
machine-harvest well because the stems tend to come off with the fruit, Kahlon says.
With the need to replant raspberries every five years, moving to a new variety is not difficult, while blueberries can be grown for decades without replanting. However, blueberries take a few years to come into full production, while raspberries begin producing right away.
The most popularly-grown B.C. raspberries are Meekers, which came out during the 1980s, supplanting the Willamette in popularity, largely because more growers began machine- harvesting.
They’re vigorous and firm, and can be harvested over a longer season. They’re also a brighter red. Kahlon notes there have been huge strides in the quality of machine harvesters since the late 1980s. “They do much less damage than they used to. Now, they vibrate the berries off. They used to have fingers; a flapper that hit every berry off. You’re bound to have more damage.”
Berries still have to drop onto a belt on the machine, but there’s not as much contact as with previous machine
designs. The machine only picks the ripest
berries, the ones that are ready to drop off, while hand pickers tend to pick all the red berries, he noted. The tendency for growers to use mechanical harvesting is one of the reasons Abbotsford—the Raspberry Capital of Canada—was selected to host the International Raspberry Organization’s conference this year. It’s never met in this country before. “It will showcase our industry; how we do things here in B.C.,” comments Kahlon, who is a member of the Raspberry Industry Development Council board.
“This is an opportunity for us to share what we do, but even more what other growers do in other countries,” he commented.
“The whole idea is to share ideas and look at issues as an industry; to look at how problems have been solved elsewhere.”
B.C. growers are encouraged to sign up for at least some of the sessions of the 8th annual IRO conference and field days, June 3 -7. Included are field trips in Whatcom County, Washington and the Fraser Valley.
8 British Columbia Berry Grower • Summer 2012
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