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August 29, 2017

Wild blueberry harvest: Smaller yields, but quality is 'quite good'

Photo / Lori Valigra
Photo / Lori Valigra
Maine's wild blueberry industry faces competitive challenges from cultivated blueberries as well as a steep decline in the price paid to farmers.

Variable weather throughout the growing season is expected to result in a much-smaller yield for this year's Maine's wild blueberry crop.

Maine Public reported that David Yarborough, blueberry specialist with the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, said this year's berries are smaller due to a number of factors, including too much rain, wind and cold in the spring, followed by too little rain and poor pollination. He described the quality, however, as "quite good."

"We were expecting a little bit better crop than we're getting," he told Maine Public. " We're thinking now that maybe the crop is around 65 million pounds, and this is in comparison to the last three years, which we've had over 100 million."

Yarborough said it's too early to tell if the smaller harvest will improve prices for Maine growers, who've been hit hard in recent years by surpluses bringing the prices down.

In July, the industry got some relief when the U.S. Department of Agriculture approved spending up to $10 million through its "bonus buy" program to purchase Maine wild blueberries.

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