Maine is the number one state in the wild blueberry business. Though growers there had a bad year in production there is hope for an upturn in the future.
Wild Blueberry growers in Maine harvested 11 million pounds less of the wild fruit in 2018 than in 2017 – 57 million pounds – as reported by University of Maine horticulture professor David Yarborough.
This may sound upsetting however, growers have been purposely putting less effort into their harvesting of this wild fruit for two reasons.
One is due to weather and the freezes they have had. But the other reason that farmers made less of an effort in harvesting than they have in years previously is because there were huge crops harvested for three years in a row prior to 2017 which topped 100 million pounds. And because of this excess it lowered the price per pound for the farmers. Consequently, farmers have been holding back in production.
The highest price per pound farmers received was back in 2007 when they were receiving $1 per pound for the wild blueberries. But that didn’t last. In fact, prices per pound eventually kept dropping all the way down to 25 cents per pound in 2017 because of the excess. Last year gave signs that the price per pound was on the upturn but it only reached 30 to 35 cents per pound, said Yarborough.
However, because of the modest yields in the last two years, Yarbororough believes that will start to change in 2019 as soon as the excess inventory is used up.
Wild blueberries are somewhat smaller and less plump than their greenhouse cultivated cousins and have an intense flavor that cannot be reproduced by their greenhouse cultivated relatives.
In the US wild blueberries are grown on the largest fields in Maine – 44,000 acres to be exact. They are frozen fresh within 24 hours of harvest, when their flavor and antioxidant goodness are at their peak and are sold to manufacturers of processed foods or to markets for individual consumer purchases.
Maine wild blueberry farmers compete with wild blueberry farmers in Canada where the dollar is weaker and where the tariff scenariosare better with government subsides.
Growers of wild blueberries in Maine are hopeful for an upturn in their business in 2019.
“Researchers at the University of Maine will continue to investigate more efficient ways to produce, process and market wild blueberries. With all of these forces working together, a healthy future is in store for the wild blueberry industry,”states the Cooperative Extension on wild blueberries for the University of Maine.