MONTREAL – Quebec strawberry and blueberry producers say this summer’s sweltering temperatures have affected their yields but that consumers likely won’t pay more for the fruit.
And out in berry-rich British Columbia, the industry says already higher prices this year can be attributed to increased labour costs.
In Quebec, Guy Pouliot, vice-president of a provincial association that represents strawberry and raspberry producers, said Tuesday this year’s heat waves and a cold winter have had an impact on the summer crop of strawberries.
‘If we compare that with a normal season, we had a yield 20 per cent lower,” he said in an interview. “Strawberries turned red faster and they were smaller.”
Pouliot also pointed out there are two crops of strawberries: one in the summer and one in the fall.
“The summer season, which was subjected to the heat waves, has ended and that (weather) shortened the season and affected yields,” he said.
Pouliot said the fall strawberry season, which runs from the end of July until the end of October, “seems pretty good and a little more than average” — despite the warm weather. That berry season also is not influenced by the winter cold.
He said Quebec consumers shouldn’t see more expensive berries because of pricing agreements producers have with the big grocery store chains like Sobeys and IGA.
“The price for consumers should not have been affected despite the lower summer yield,” Pouliot said.
Daniel Gobeil, a spokesman for Quebec blueberry producers, said in an interview that three weeks without rain earlier this summer hurt.
“(But) in the past few weeks, we’ve had a few good showers and if that continues and we get a few more showers. . .we will minimize our losses,” he added.
Marcel Groleau, president of Quebec’s agricultural producers union, noted that most of the province’s fruit producers have irrigation systems which help them deal with the dryness.
In the West, Alf Krause, vice-president of the BC Strawberry Growers Association, said his first crop of strawberries in June was average and the second crop has been generally good, although yields are not as high as the first crop.
But the association says most producers in the province have had a good strawberry crop.
“The peak is over now and we’re settling into finishing off in the fall,” Krause said.
He also noted the blueberry yield has been average, adding that despite a recent heat wave, “the crop overall has been good.”
Krause said prices were up from last year — but that’s due largely to labour costs which have risen considerably.
He also boasted that per capita, British Columbia is the largest producer of blueberries in Canada, while Quebec can claim the title for strawberries.
The berry farmer also cautioned consumers that the prices for B.C. strawberries and blueberries will start creeping up this weekend because of supply and demand.
“The crop is tightening up and availability will be reducing,” Krause said.