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AUGUST 2019 • COUNTRY LIFE IN BC


15


Tour showcases innovation, marketing savvy Fraser Valley blueberries take the spotlight on tour


by PETER MITHAM ABBOTSFORD—British


Columbia is the world’s third- largest producer of high-bush blueberries but a first-time host of the International Blueberry Organization during its summit in Richmond at the end of June. Three busloads of summit


participants took the opportunity to see the industry first-hand the day before the formal presentations. Stops in Langley and Abbotsford allowed delegates to see how 150 million pounds of blueberries BC produces annually are grown, packed and sold.


Blueberries are BC’s third-


largest agrifood export, with a farmgate value of $136 million underpinning international shipments worth $222 million in 2017. Ninety percent are grown in the Fraser Valley. “I think a lot of this success is because our berry growers and our packer-processors are embracing innovation and leveraging new technologies,” BC agriculture minister Lana Popham told summit participants touring Valley Select Foods Inc. in Abbotsford. “This commitment to innovation is helping us preserve the quality of the berries,


berries, or about a sixth of the province’s total crop. The fruit comes from of its own fields plus those of about 200 other growers spread across the valley. All growers are CanadaGAP certified. “That’s basically a given


now with the retailers. They all want food security,” Drew said. The diversity helps even out the flow of fruit through the season, which typically begins in early July. This year, however, berries were ready two weeks earlier than usual. Drew encouraged visitors to step into the fields and taste the berries for themselves. “We’re managing not only


Three busloads of IBO Summit delegates were shown how local berries are packed at Valley Select Foods Inc. in Abbotsford. Valley Select handles about 23 million pounds of blueberries each year. It’s the largest packer of blueberries in North America for Driscolls. PETER MITHAM PHOTO


increase the value of the harvest, improve marketability, and helping reach people around the globe.” Valley Select president Travis Drew told the tour that his business handles 23 million pounds of


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our own fields but also the ins and outs [for other growers],” he said. “[But] like most other regions of the world, we’re trying to find the next great variety.” Valley Select’s major varieties are Duke, Bluecrop and Elliott. Approximately 40% of the crop is frozen and 60% is sold into the fresh market. “We’re the largest packer of blueberries for Driscolls in


North America,” Drew said. “We’ve partnered with them to create a hub for packaging.”


See HUB on next page o


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