Posted by Pat Turner on 6/11/2017 to Market Sectors
IncSmart Maine (Small Business and Startups) - Maine's blueberry industry is under assault. Not only does the state government fear the possibility of losing blueberry growers due to a depression in prices, it is fighting a new Mummy Berry Disease brought about by the very honey bees they ship in to pollinate the berry flowers. Maine has experienced a multi year boom in harvest that has led to surplus. These bumper crops bring lower prices. Canada also competes with the market for wild blueberries and is winning with the weaker Canadian dollar. The drop in prices to farmers hasn't trickled down to retail customers yet. A state budget proposal that would use $2.5 million in state money to market agricultural products such as blueberries.
Wild blueberries are a Maine tradition and the local Bumblebees are the natural pollinator for the blueberry flowers. Honey Bees are imported to Maine to help pollinate blueberry fields, but the Honey Bees can play a problem role. As they pollinate the fields, they spread Mummy Berry spores to healthy plants. Bumblebees do not due this. Mummy Berry disease is a fungus that can be devastating to a crop of wild blueberries. They Honey Bees work alongside the Bumblebees native pollinators. Learning that native bees may not spread the disease was an important discovery.
Wild blueberries are a superfood and are not as common in stores as the fatter cultivated blueberries. 99 percent of the crop is frozen, and it is widely used as a food ingredient, such as in smoothies. Hopes to market blueberries more aggressively overseas and increase efforts to get Maine blueberries into more U.S. schools is a goal of the state.
By Pat Turner
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