U.S. government buying up blueberries
In the face of industry pressure, the federal government is spending up to $4.4 million to complete a plan to help Maine’s blueberry industry by buying surplus crop.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture said in April it would buy up to $13 million in wild blueberries to help with falling prices and oversupply. Wild blueberries are one of Maine’s signature exports, and recent years of large harvests have left the industry with excess berries.
The USDA has bought $8.6 million in blueberries, the Wild Blueberry Commission of Maine said. Commission executive director Nancy McBrady said the group requested the federal agency spend the rest of the money. A USDA spokesperson confirmed on Wednesday that the agency is working to complete the purchase.
“It’s immensely helpful to our industry,” McBrady said.
Wild blueberries are different from cultivated blueberries in that they are smaller, have a more intense taste and are richer in antioxidants. Maine is by far the United States’ biggest producer of wild blueberries, which are also harvested in Atlantic Canada.
The USDA’s purchase of wild blueberries could eventually impact prices to consumers, which have been lower in recent years because of the big harvests and competition from Canada, where the dollar is weaker. Frozen wild blueberries slid from 90 cents per pound in 2011 to 60 cents per pound in 2014, the blueberry commission has said.