A late spring frost, a devastating drought and labor troubles wrought by the coronavirus pandemic conspired to make 2020 a troublesome 12 months for the wild blueberry producers who harvest the fruit within the nation’s northeastern nook.
- Associated Press
- Last Updated: September 19, 2020, 7:36 PM IST
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PORTLAND, Maine: A late spring frost, a devastating drought and labor troubles wrought by the coronavirus pandemic conspired to make 2020 a troublesome 12 months for the wild blueberry producers who harvest the fruit within the nation’s northeastern nook.
America’s producers of untamed blueberries are largely positioned in Maine, the place the blueberry trade has battled fungal plant ailments and erratic market situations lately. The harvest takes place each summer time, and this 12 months’s crop was doubtless far off final 12 months’s whole of about 87 million kilos, trade consultants mentioned.
One of the largest issues was the drought, which stricken 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 reasonable drought situations, in keeping with the U.S. Drought Monitor.
The pandemic additionally made it harder to rent seasonal staff 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, mentioned Lily Calderwood. a wild blueberry specialist at University of Maine Cooperative Extension.
It was uniquely difficult, however we’ve got had late frosts up to now and we’ve got had drought up to now,” she mentioned. “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 referred to as blueberry barrens. Maine’s blueberry trade 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 scale of the crop is sort of 84 million kilos, however indicators level to a crop that might be half of expectations this 12 months, in keeping with the Wild Blueberry Commission of Maine. However, demand for the fruit has elevated not too long ago, and the trade has the flexibility to bounce again from the robust 12 months, mentioned Eric Venturini, the chief director of the blueberry fee.
Despite the down 12 months by way of manufacturing, demand is excessive,” he mentioned. “I believe leveraging that may positively be a part of the sport plan.
Maine competes with Canada within the wild blueberry market, and a few corporations function on either side of the border. The uneven alternate charge with Canada has prompted financial issues for Maine’s trade lately. Still, costs to farmers have rebounded in current seasons after down years in 2016 and 2017.
This 12 months, some blueberry staff examined constructive for coronavirus, and corporations responded by holding them in quarantine. Workers had been examined earlier than they started work to forestall potential outbreaks.
It was a irritating 12 months within the fields, however the trade was in a position to forestall spreading coronavirus to surrounding communities in Washington County, the place many fields are positioned, mentioned Homer Woodward, vp of operations for Wyman’s, one of many main gamers within the trade.
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 a hit for the trade, Woodward mentioned.
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