Blueberries just waiting to be plucked

Crews are a quarter way through harvest

Because of cooler

Because of cooler

You may not have enjoyed the first part of this summer, but just wait for what’s coming: fat and juicy blueberries, just waiting to be plucked.

This year promises to be a good harvest for blueberries.

“This year, the weather has been cooler and therefore the quality should be better,” said Gary Purewal, with Purewal Blueberry Farms on Hale Road in Pitt Meadows.

Crews are about a quarter way into the harvesting of 400 hectares of blueberries, which they’ll process into fresh and frozen packages in their Pitt Meadows plant and ship to the U.S., Australia and Japan.

The cooler, wetter weather in early summer has meant the crop has been spared the withering heat, which can shrink berries, although a virus is causing some crop losses.

Instead, the blueberries have grown juicier and now await final ripening as the sun shines.

Prices have also bounced back from last year.

“Prices look good. Prices have been significantly on the rise compared to last year,” Prewal said.

“It’s shaping up to be a pretty good year for growers, packers and retailers.”

The cool weather also delayed harvest by a few weeks, which means there is fresh B.C. product at a time when the U.S. crop has finished.

During the summer, Purewal Blueberry Farms employs about 500 workers, 100 of them foreign workers from Mexico. The cooler weather also helps those working on the harvest, he added.

Purewal said improvement in growing techniques, such as pruning and watering, have also helped improve berry quality.

“Off-season farm practices have never been better by growers.”

According to the B.C. Blueberry Council, the wet spring led to a slow growing season – with the benefit of a longer harvest season.

The council represents 700 growers who produce 40 million kilograms of blueberries annually. Canada is the third-largest producer of highbush blueberries in the world, while B.C. produces virtually all of the fresh berry product.

Sales are expected to top $100 million this year in an industry that employs 10,000 people.

Since 2003, the total area in B.C. planted in blueberries has more than doubled to 8,100 hectares.