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Blueberry growers being squeezed


FORT LAWRENCE – Blueberry yields are bigger than average this season but blueberry prices have pushed some farmers, especially smaller operations, to the brink. 

“It’s easier to do 50-acres in one area than it is to do 10, five-acre pieces all over the place,” said Steve Gibson, who, along with his wife Joanne, own and operate Hawkes Blueberries in Fort Lawrence. “One big piece of land is more cost effective, so it’s making it harder on some of the smaller producers. I’d like to see it more fair for everybody.”

Growers are currently receiving 50 cents a pound for blueberries, which leaves little room for error when hoping to stay afloat.

“The 65 to 75 cent range, I think, would be fair,” said Gibson.

The Gibson’s are growers.

“As a grower we’ll produce 150,000 to 200,000 pounds.”

They are also buyers.

 “We’ll do a million and a half pounds of blueberries. We don’t produce that, we buy,” said Gibson. “We’re a receiving station. That’s what we’ll buy from local growers.”

Blueberry producers received 55 cents a pound in 2014, and Gibson said it’s tough justifying 50-cents a pound to farmers selling blueberries to him.

“Being the middleman I’m the one who has to tell them I’m giving them 50 cents. I take the heat. I hear it every day how frustrating it is to growers,” said Gibson. “You can’t grow for 50 cents. There is a (profit) margin there but it is very little.”

Gibson said the formula for increasing yields has been perfected over the past decade or so.

“Fifteen years ago it used to be burn, spray, and pick. Now there’s more to it. The science of growing blueberries has grown dramatically in the last six to seven years.”

With increased science had come increased yields.

“Fields that used to produce two tons an acre, which was considered really good, are now producing four ton to the acre,” said Gibson. “They’ve increased the yields, but the costs (of production) have gone way, way up”

Gibson said growers see little profit from extra yields, while processors reap the benefits.

“My net profit only went up two or three per cent, yet I increased the yield on my field by 40 per cent,” said Gibson. “The 40 per cent of extra berries went to the processor, but the grower got less, so the only one who is benefitting is the processor.”

He said it’s all about risk vs. rewards, with the growers taking all the risk, and the processors getting all the rewards.

“Growers are taking 100 per cent of the risk because they’re making the investment,” he said.

 

 

“It’s easier to do 50-acres in one area than it is to do 10, five-acre pieces all over the place,” said Steve Gibson, who, along with his wife Joanne, own and operate Hawkes Blueberries in Fort Lawrence. “One big piece of land is more cost effective, so it’s making it harder on some of the smaller producers. I’d like to see it more fair for everybody.”

Growers are currently receiving 50 cents a pound for blueberries, which leaves little room for error when hoping to stay afloat.

“The 65 to 75 cent range, I think, would be fair,” said Gibson.

The Gibson’s are growers.

“As a grower we’ll produce 150,000 to 200,000 pounds.”

They are also buyers.

 “We’ll do a million and a half pounds of blueberries. We don’t produce that, we buy,” said Gibson. “We’re a receiving station. That’s what we’ll buy from local growers.”

Blueberry producers received 55 cents a pound in 2014, and Gibson said it’s tough justifying 50-cents a pound to farmers selling blueberries to him.

“Being the middleman I’m the one who has to tell them I’m giving them 50 cents. I take the heat. I hear it every day how frustrating it is to growers,” said Gibson. “You can’t grow for 50 cents. There is a (profit) margin there but it is very little.”

Gibson said the formula for increasing yields has been perfected over the past decade or so.

“Fifteen years ago it used to be burn, spray, and pick. Now there’s more to it. The science of growing blueberries has grown dramatically in the last six to seven years.”

With increased science had come increased yields.

“Fields that used to produce two tons an acre, which was considered really good, are now producing four ton to the acre,” said Gibson. “They’ve increased the yields, but the costs (of production) have gone way, way up”

Gibson said growers see little profit from extra yields, while processors reap the benefits.

“My net profit only went up two or three per cent, yet I increased the yield on my field by 40 per cent,” said Gibson. “The 40 per cent of extra berries went to the processor, but the grower got less, so the only one who is benefitting is the processor.”

He said it’s all about risk vs. rewards, with the growers taking all the risk, and the processors getting all the rewards.

“Growers are taking 100 per cent of the risk because they’re making the investment,” he said.

 

 

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