Beekeepers concerned over expected 2nd year of low blueberry prices

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Blueberry industry experts say there is a surplus of berries on the market that will lead to low prices again this year, and that has P.E.I. beekeepers worried.

David MacNearney, president of the P.E.I. Beekeeping Association, said for years beekeepers have been importing hives to help pollinate and meet the demand for the blueberry industry, but a surplus in wild blueberries and record low prices have suddenly forced a change..

"We've been struggling as an industry to keep up with the rapid increase in blueberry production, so we've always imported hives to make up the deficit in the beekeeping industry," said MacNearny. 

"We've made investments counting on that market and now that market might not be there."

Cutting costs

MacNearny said it's been recommended to blueberry farmers this year to forgo inputs like fertilizer and pollination to offset the costs of production.

"The cost of managing an acre of blueberries is the same regardless of the yield," he said. "It costs the same to feritilize it whether you get a thousand pounds for the acre or five thousand pounds for the acre.

"If they don't think the yield is going to bring in enough money to pay for the inputs like the fertilizer, then they would decide not to put fertilizer on that field and not harvest it as well, and not put bees on it to pollinate the crop." 

Bees are a blueberry farmer's most expensive input, with several hives needed to pollinate a single acre.

"You probably need about two thousand pounds [of blueberries] an acre just to pay for your bees," said MacNearny.

MacNearny said industry experts are recommending beekeepers expand their operations to make up for the lack of demand in the blueberry industry.

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