Low Blueberry Prices Impacting Maine’s Agriculture Industry

The Associated Press reported yesterday that, “Members of Maine’s agriculture industry and state government fear the possibility of losing blueberry growers due to a depression in prices that has made growing the beloved crop a less reliable way to make a living.

“Wild blueberries are a Maine tradition on par with lobsters and lighthouses, but prices to farmers have plunged from nearly a dollar a pound (0.45 kilogram) in 2011 to around 25 to 30 cents per pound (0.45 kilogram) last year. The number of farmers and acreages is holding steady, but other measures show a decline in effort on farms, state officials said.

“For example, bees are imported to Maine to pollinate blueberry fields, and the number of beehives coming into the state declined by about 20 percent from 2015 to 2016, said David Yarborough, a horticulture professor at the University of Maine.”

The AP article noted that, “Industry members said they are likely looking at another year of low prices, and some farmers are using less of their fields in anticipation of a tough summer.”

Yesterday’s article added that, “Gov. Paul LePage, a Republican, has submitted a state budget proposal that would use $2.5 million in state money to market agricultural products such as blueberries. He and others have said the state needs to find new buyers for the blueberries to try to spur demand and buoy prices. State officials say wild blueberry growers in Washington and Hancock counties, the heart of blueberry country, are seeing annual losses of $70 million.”

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