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British Columbia winds up another successful blueberry season

After the earliest starting season in memory, and one that presented its fair share of challenges, the British Columbia Blueberry Council can now confirm that 2013's fresh blueberry season was one of the region's largest ever, producing a crop estimated at 107 million pounds.

"B.C. had beautiful warm, sunny weather this spring and right through the summer," said Debbie Etsell, Executive Director of the British Columbia Blueberry Council. "This resulted in blueberries that were of a very good quality and extra sweet."

This year's harvest is slightly below last year's record crop of 115 million pounds. The decrease can be attributed to warm weather late last summer and fall, leading to poor flower bud formation in some fields, therefore leading to a lower yield. Additionally, this year's sunny spring advanced and matured bloom more quickly than usual, and in some cases fields required more bees than were available for optimum levels of pollination. Furthermore, berries from early-season and mid-season varieties ripened in quick succession, resulting in a "blue wall" of fruit at the beginning of July.

"All of North America's biggest blueberry growing regions had strong seasons, and with our early start, there was a lot of overlap, and competition for space on the shelves in the grocery store," said Etsell. "British Columbia is usually the last region to come into season, so the problem was compounded for us, and our producers definitely had to work harder to get B.C. blueberries into stores with so much other fruit already out there."

News of the strong season comes hot on the heels of the federal government's announcement of a new trade agreement with the European Union, which will open up markets and decrease import taxes between the two trading blocs. "The B.C. Blueberry Council and our growers are looking forward to a more open business relationship with the EU," said Etsell. "We do currently export to EU markets and have been marketing in the region in preparation for this agreement. It's our hope that the deal will remove the current EU tariff on fresh and frozen blueberries, removing a significant barrier to us expanding exports to this market."

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