any berries grown in Washington State are processed in Washington and stay in the U.S.
Neger says the current value of the Canadian dollar is a big bonus for Mukhtiar Processors, with a 24 per cent premium for every American dollar they earn. He was quick to add that future purchases of supplies and equipment will have to come from Canadian companies to avoid having to pay the premium on the U.S. dollar. Neger stated that 2014 was the kind of year that many growers had been waiting for. However, he would not disclose the price growers received. “The market has been soft in the past few years but 2013 got a little better and 2014 was even better. I would say most growers were happy with the outcome of the 2014 season in terms of quality, the production per acre and also the price.”
Neger explained why some raspberry growers pulled out their raspberry plants a couple of years ago and replaced them with blueberry plants. “The blueberry market was a lot stronger,” he said, “and blueberry growers were getting a higher tonnage off their plants. Because the price was better some raspberry growers decided
it was better to switch to growing blueberries. The cost of such a change was manageable, unless the grower making the change had to buy additional land.”
To plant a blueberry crop on bare land can cost up to $10,000 an acre. To purchase land around the Abbotsford airport area and other parts of the Fraser Valley can cost as much as $100,000 an acre and even more in the Lower Mainland area.
Raspberry growers have had to contend with the threat of the Spotted Wing Drosophila (SWD) insect, which has also had a major effect on blueberry growers.
When Neger was asked how well the raspberry industry was doing in dealing with this insect threat he replied that 2014 was a good year — meaning low numbers of SWD.
“There are farming practices growers can use to help control SWD,” noted Neger.
“The pest management practices growers have, when put in place, will ensure the insect does not infect the fruit. In 2013 we had a cold winter, which impacted the overwintering of the insect so that the numbers were down. However, the 2014 winter, which is still
not finished, hasn’t been as cold, so it is a bit early to say, but the SWD numbers this year may be higher.
“The SWD problem is one of those things that growers are going to have to get used to. I don’t think there is any chance of it going away in the future.” Several processors in the industry
have purchased one or more of the new IQF (Instant Quick Freeze) machines and are putting out a frozen berry that Neger says compares favorably with a fresh market berry.
“IQF is a freezer tunnel that can process up to 12,000 pounds of berries in an hour. And the frozen berry looks and tastes the same as a fresh berry. It is perfect, a premium product.” Neger stated that the proposal to implement a national check-off, with the funds earmarked for research and development and marketing, is now before the National Farm Products Marketing Council for approval. However, there has been no indication when the council will deal with the issue. If approved, the proposal won’t come into effect until the industry establishes a board of directors to over- see the implementation and establish the rules and regulations which will govern the program.
6 British Columbia Berry Grower • Spring 2015
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