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Late Spring Frost, Drought and Labor Shortage: Maine Blueberry Industry is in Trouble Amid Covid-19

FILE – In this July 27, 2012 file photograph, wild blueberries await harvesting in Warren, Maine. The state’s wild blueberry crop suffered in 2020 because of drought and an absence of labor attributable to the coronavirus pandemic. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty, File)

America’s producers of untamed blueberries are largely situated in Maine, the place the blueberry business has battled fungal plant ailments and erratic market situations lately. The harvest takes place each summer time, and this yr’s crop was possible far off final yr’s complete of about 87 million kilos, business specialists stated.

  • Associated Press
  • Last Updated: September 19, 2020, 11:45 PM IST

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A late spring frost, a devastating drought and labor troubles wrought by the coronavirus pandemic conspired to make 2020 a tough yr for the wild blueberry producers who harvest the fruit within the nation’s northeastern nook.

America’s producers of untamed blueberries are largely situated in Maine, the place the blueberry business has battled fungal plant ailments and erratic market situations lately. The harvest takes place each summer time, and this yr’s crop was possible far off final yr’s complete of about 87 million kilos, business specialists stated.






One of the most important issues was the drought, which troubled a lot of northern New England all through the summer time. The rural Maine counties that comprise many of the nation’s wild blueberry fields are even now going through average drought situations, in line with the U.S. Drought Monitor.

The pandemic additionally made it harder to rent seasonal employees and created a necessity for extra security measures that sophisticated the harvest. Add a shock frost in early June, and it added as much as most positively a difficult season, stated Lily Calderwood. a wild blueberry specialist at University of Maine Cooperative Extension.

It was uniquely difficult, however we have now had late frosts previously and we have now had drought previously,” she stated. “The growers are a really resilient group of farmers who develop a really various crop.

Wild blueberries differ from the ever present cultivated blueberries in that they’re smaller and happen naturally in fields known as blueberry barrens. Maine’s blueberry business has touted the wild blueberries as a possible piece of the superfood motion lately. Most of the crop is frozen, although some are offered in Maine farm stands and supermarkets each August.

The five-year common for the dimensions of the crop is almost 84 million kilos, however indicators level to a crop that could possibly be half of expectations this yr, in line with the Wild Blueberry Commission of Maine. However, demand for the fruit has elevated just lately, and the business has the power to bounce again from the robust yr, stated Eric Venturini, the chief director of the blueberry fee.

Despite the down yr by way of manufacturing, demand is excessive,” he stated. “I believe leveraging that can positively be a part of the sport plan.

Maine competes with Canada within the wild blueberry market, and a few firms function on each side of the border. The uneven trade price with Canada has triggered financial issues for Maine’s business lately. Still, costs to farmers have rebounded in current seasons after down years in 2016 and 2017.

This yr, some blueberry employees examined constructive for coronavirus, and firms responded by maintaining them in quarantine. Workers have been examined earlier than they started work to forestall potential outbreaks.

It was a irritating yr within the fields, however the business was capable of stop spreading coronavirus to surrounding communities in Washington County, the place many fields are situated, stated Homer Woodward, vice chairman of operations for Wyman’s, one of many main gamers within the business.

The measurement of the crop was disappointing however so far as navigating COVID, so far as stopping it from turning into an issue in Washington County, I believe that was successful for the business, Woodward stated.


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