Times are truly tough for B.C. raspberry growers who are finding it difficult to compete with lower labour, land and supply costs from other raspberry producing countries such as Chile, Mexico and Serbia.
B.C. raspberries are known for their exceptional flavour, and production was at its peak in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when 42 million pounds per year were picked. Abbotsford, B.C. was known as the ‘raspberry capital of Canada.’ But production has dropped dramatically, falling to less than 17 million pounds last year.
The number of growers has declined too — from 500 at the raspberry industry's peak to just 90 now, according to a CBC report, April 11, 2019.
James Bergen of the Raspberry Industry Development Council says that many of the B.C. growers are CanadaGAP certified, meaning that they’re subject to yearly food safety audits, which ultimately benefit the consumer. Imported berries may not offer that level of security.
This year, growers in the Fraser Valley were hit with a cold snap in February which caused damage that is yet to be determined. So, with all the challenges, many growers are switching to other crops that could be more profitable.
But there is hope on the horizon for a raspberry variety that would have a longer shelf life than the current five days. According to Bergen, the industry has been working on a new variety with longer shelf life.
“To get an extra three or four days of shelf life would be absolutely huge,” says Bergen. “Better hardiness against disease and changing growing conditions as well as increased yield would all be valuable traits for growers,” he added.
But development of new varieties takes many years, even with increasingly sophisticated genetic techniques.
In the meantime, consumers’ buying choices can make a big difference for the viability of the industry, so they’re being encouraged to choose locally grown B.C. raspberries.
Source: CBC news, April 11, 2019 release