Good management is vital

Premiumproductmust still be the aim, despite seasonal challenges.

By Judie Steeves

other Nature sent out a wake- up call to growers last year, reminding them that she can always throw a curve ball they will have to be alert to catch.


Growers who were on their toes and followed good management practices still made a profit because they produced premium quality fruit, even though the crop in B.C. was down an estimated 30 per cent from normal. Jack Bates, chair of the B.C. Blueberry Council, says lower production resulted from the wet, late spring weather, which was followed by a very dry, hot summer. That meant the quantity of fruit was down, but prices were up, especially for good-quality fruit.

“Quality is vital,” he advises, reminding fellow growers that there’s a small market for lower-end fruit for juice and other products, but the premium market is where the money is. “Most growers are doing things right, but there are always factors we don’t have any control over, like the weather. If we explore all options, including crop insurance, we can help to control our costs,” he adds.

“Some growers are still in denial about Spotted Wing Drosophila, but we have to keep on top of that too. Last year was an easy year, but you can’t deal with it after-the-fact. You have to spray to keep it under control.” Bates grows 90 acres of blueberries on the family farm in Delta, and says spring was even later and cooler there than in the Fraser Valley.

However, he’s hopeful the plants, which got a break this past season handling a lighter crop, will be all ready to produce a big crop in 2018, provided there’s a better spring and growing

12 British Columbia Berry Grower • Spring 2018 Jack (L) and Ken Bates season.

Ideally, the weather will allow growers to begin picking in July, rather than in June, because the earlier picking means they’re marketing head-to-head with crops from

Washington and Oregon and even Michigan. In a more-normal year than the previous couple, the first berries from the B.C. crop follow crops from those U.S. states, rather than competing with them on global markets. The Bates ship to

Bates notes there are still huge opportunities out there for the

blueberry industry to expand. “Blueberries are accepted world-wide as a healthy fruit,” he notes. “So, why do foreign fruits, such as bananas, sell better in Canada than locally-grown blueberries?” he muses. Parm Bains and his family grow 400 acres of

blueberries in Pitt Meadows and Abbotsford, and he agrees the industry can continue to expand its market base into regions such as Asia. “Blueberries have a nice healthy halo,” so we should capitalize on that.

The fresh market is a strong market for B.C. fruit, which lends itself to that premium market, he points out.

Parm Bains

Berryhill Foods Inc., which packs and markets their fruit.

“Consumers are looking for foods that are healthy and come from a source that is considered safe. Canada has a good reputation there and the health benefits of blueberries are good in consumers’ minds.”

He began shipping to China this year, despite the added paperwork and protocols, and says he found they had expectations B.C. growers will have to

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