It’s a Blue­berry fu­ture for China

Asian Journal - - British Columbia -

Ray Hud­son

Eight years of in­ten­sive work cul­mi­nated in the an­nounce­ment, Wed­nes­day, of a mar­ket ac­cess agree­ment to sup­ply fresh blue­ber­ries to China. In­ter­na­tional Trade Min­is­ter Ed Fast an­nounced the deal say­ing it could be worth up to $65 mil­lion per year. Chi­nese in­spec­tors will be vis­it­ing B.C. this sum­mer to carry out prein­spec­tions be­fore the first ship­ments oc­cur. “The an­nounce­ment means about $300 mil­lion farm gate value, and that’s just to the grow­ers, not the eco­nomic driv­ers. said Deb­bie Et­sell, the Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor of the Blue­berry Coun­cil of BC. She said it means that an enor­mous pop­u­la­tion, which has been de­mand­ing BC Prod­uct for some time, will now be ac­ces­si­ble to the grow­ers who will be ship­ping prod­uct to China. In terms of in­creases, Et­sell said that in 2013, they had an in­crease of 121 mil­lion pounds and in 2014 they had 152 mil­lion pounds of blue­ber­ries, there’s been quite an in­crease over the last few years. “This year’s crop is very early,” said Et­sell. “We started pick­ing last week, and we’re four weeks ahead of two years ago, and two weeks ahead of last year. We’ve had a re­ally mild win­ter and a very warm and dry spring so the qual­ity of the berries is very good, but it’s go­ing to be in­ter­est­ing to see how long we will have blue­ber­ries this year. Time will tell” Et­sell said the Blue­berry crop is a huge eco­nomic driver in BC, one of the top agri­foods ex­ports out of the province and the num­ber one ex­ported fruit out of Canada. Ac­cord­ing to the pro­vin­cial min­istry of Agri­cul­ture, BC pro­duces about 95% of the Cana­dian pro­duc­tion of cul­ti­vated blue­ber­ries, about 18 mil­lion kilo­grams per year. About 50% of these are pro­cessed; the oth­ers are bought fresh for ex­port and lo­cal con­sump­tion through stores and farm gate out­lets. In BC, about 3500 ha are farmed by over 450 farm fam­i­lies. “I’ve said it be­fore, but it’s a day of

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