Canada blueberry acreage keeps growing
In Canada, blueberries are the top fruit commodity by growing area and farm gate value. With both wild (low bush) and cultivated (high bush) blueberries, acreage has expanded during the last decade.
According to a report by the Foreign Agricultural Service of the USDA, acreage, especially of wild blueberry has expanded the most, as consumer demand grows and prices increase.
The production area of cultivated blueberries has increased by 27% over the past decade.
The report indicated that in 2021, wild blueberry acreage was the largest in the past decade.
In 2021, blueberries represented 59% of the Canadian fruit commodity market share by growing area, followed by apples with just 13%.
After production levels reached their peak in 2016 led by increasing global demand and strong production, acreage, mainly wild blueberries, was reduced as prices fell below the cost of production. Additionally, labor and supply chain impacts, weather events, and impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic had led to unstable production levels.
Even though blueberries dominate cultivated area and farm gate value compared to other fruits, they held the third place for fruit crops produced by marketed production in 2021 under apples and cranberries.
Main cultivated blueberry region
The main region of cultivated blueberries is in western Canada, exactly British Columbia (BC) where 96% of production occurs. However, this is just 15% of the total blueberry acreage in the country. The other 85% is located in the east, in the Quebec region where all wild blueberry production is concentrated.
BC growers face several challenges including “extremely high land costs.” Producers have also signaled issues with pollination due to Canada’s significant bee loss. They believe that production could potentially be 30% higher if they were able to obtain appropriate pollination services according to the USDA report.
Imports & exports
The United States continues to be the dominant source market for Canada’s imports of fresh wild blueberries. This creates competition for locally grown wild blueberries in the local market. However, increased acreage in Canada could indicate a coming period of lower import demand.
Canada also exports some of its blueberries, between 2012-21, 21% of its production went to exports.
The big focus on exports is frozen fruit, Canada is the largest exporter of frozen blueberries globally, mainly towards the U.S. market, but also to the EU.
Exporters have also started to look at the Asian market, as exports of frozen blueberries have increased to China and most recently to Japan with the implementation of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) in December 2018.