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Kittiwake Economic Development Corporation

The eKubator Project

Harvesting Blue Gold
August 31, 2001
{Author: eBerg Staff}

  It won’t happen overnight, but the newly formed Blueberry Development Corporation is confident modern commercial blueberry farming is a natural fit for Newfoundland and Labrador.

The Blueberry Development Corporation comprises seven Regional Economic Development Boards and the Gambo-Indian Bay Development Association. It was incorporated in the summer of 2000 as a not-for-profit company mandated to facilitate the creation of sustainable blueberry farms within the province.

Blueberries have traditionally been the largest agricultural export commodity for Newfoundland – a trade which was developed during the Great Depression of the 1930s. Currently, Newfoundland and Labrador produces the least blueberries of the five eastern Canadian provinces.

“In terms of blueberries, we’re behind our neighbours, even though we have the hardiest, tastiest, healthiest berry,” Project Manager Darryl Taylor said. “And this is due to the limited amount of blueberry farming we have. We have had the same general structure for producing berries for almost a century. Most berries are picked in the wild through an agency system run by local processors. This system seems to work fine, however, it lacks the structure required to enhance or encourage commercial farming.”

The Blueberry Development Corporation commissioned a team of consultants to provide it with a specific approach and action plan. The consultant’s report indicated that developing the industry would demand a long-term approach, cooperation and patience.

“A long-term productive strategy is required to open up new lands, and investors needs to see concrete results,” Mr. Taylor said. “To develop a blueberry farm from scratch takes up to six years to apply all the required land development technologies, such as land clearing to land leveling. After that, the land only needs the basic annual technologies applied. The operation can become more lucrative each following year. “
The seven regional economic development boards are working with 27 interested farmers from across the province, five of them in the Kittiwake Zone.

Newfoundland’s blueberry processors are already producing jams, jellies, sauces and wines, as well as making inroads into organic markets. The consultant’s analysis indicated Newfoundland blueberry farmers have an opportunity to earn a share of domestic and foreign markets.

“Newfoundland is succeeding in terms of production, processing and marketing of blueberries. But these processors want more volume, and if we can’t produce it domestically, it will likely have to be imported. It is said that our processors will require an additional 2 million pounds over the next few years,” Mr. Taylor said. “You don’t have to be Alan Greenspan to understand that replacing imported product with local goods is key to growing an economy.”

In order to put the Master Plan into action, the Blueberry Development Corporation plans to develop five parcels of land of various sizes, each at different stages of development. From these plots, they will obtain the data necessary to help emerging farmers. Then the intent is to assist in the development of a Blueberry Farming Co-operative, which will eventually take over the ownership of the Blueberry Development Corporation’s initiative and resources.

The Blueberry Development Corporation has been meeting with government agencies, including Department of Forest Resources and Agrifoods Minister Rick Woodford, to organize a roundtable geared to secure funding to administer the Master Plan.

“It’s really important that we understand that this may take some time, but five or six years is a millisecond in terms of building a new industry,” explained Paul Stride, the Kittiwake Economic Development Corporation’s Executive Director. “All of us know as Newfoundlanders that we need long-term, sustainable economic development and we must be progressive, visionary and patient.”

The Blueberry Development Corporation includes the Gambo-Indian Bay Development Association, Coast of Bays Corporation, Discovery Regional Development Board, Exploits Valley Economic, Emerald Zone Corporation, Irish Loop Regional Economic Development Board, Kittiwake Economic Development Corporation and Schooner Regional Development Corporation.