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Canadian farmers plan to export haskap berries to Japan
Kyle Marchuk and Shawn Newell aim to make Yukon Berry Farms the largest haskap berry farm in Canada, maybe even the largest in the world. And they plan to export their products overseas to Japan, where the berry is already popular.
Yukon Berry Farms was launched in 2014. Currently, the farm consists of 40 acres and 40,000 plants, which Marchuk and Newell hope will produce at least 400,000 pounds of berries each season once they reach maturity in the next few years. They’re also looking to plant even more haskap, and Marchuk said a million pounds of berries in a year isn’t an unrealistic goal.
The farm is now issuing promissory notes to attract investors who want to help bring the haskap to market. The offer ends Sept. 30.
Haskap berries look like fat, stretched-out blueberries. Marchuk and Newell are growing varieties produced at the University of Saskatchewan that are crosses between haskap native to Siberia and Japan.
That mixture of traits is key to their success here in the Yukon. The Siberian berries, Newell explained, grow well in cold temperatures but have a bitter, sour flavour. The Japanese varieties are bigger and sweeter.
The hybrid combines the best of both berries. “It’s something that’s really cold-hardy, but also tastes good,” Newell said. Marchuk describes the flavour as a cross between a blueberry and a raspberry, with the tartness of a black currant.
But Yukon Berry Farms faces challenges, too. When Marchuk ordered his first 20,000 haskap plants in 2014, he received a shipment of tiny, six-inch-tall plants – much smaller than he expected. Those plants likely won’t be producing berries at full capacity until 2019. So for the time being, he and Newell are sinking a lot of their own money into this project.
That’s why he’s decided to issue promissory notes for at least $5,000 instead. He said he’s hoping for a total investment of about $150,000.
Yukon Berry Farms does plan to sell haskap locally - in fact, Yukon Brewing has already produced a haskap berry liqueur. But creating a Yukon-grown export is the ultimate goal.
To that end, Marchuk travelled to a food show in Japan earlier this year, with representatives from the Department of Economic Development. He was showcasing a haskap berry jam, and said the Japanese are very interested in buying haskap from Canada.
His eventual plan is to sell a value-added haskap product — possibly the jam, or maybe dried or frozen berries. He said he’s also had interest from North American companies, including Gerber and Astro.
Publication date: 9/8/2016
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