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September 27, 2021

Maine’s wild blueberry harvest rebounds from 2020's disastrous crop

blueberry plant Courtesy / University of Maine Heavy rain helped wild blueberry crops rebound in 2021.

Maine’s recent wild blueberry harvest has nearly doubled last year’s volume, as ample rain revived production to more normal levels after frost and dry weather ruined crops a year ago.

The 2021 wild blueberry harvest will likely total 85 million to 90 million pounds, compared with less than 48 million pounds last year, according to David Yarborough, emeritus professor of horticulture with the University of Maine.

This year’s crop is the biggest since 2016, according to the University of Maine Cooperative Extension.

“We had ample rain this summer, so this year’s crop is twice as good. Last year was a crop failure due to frost and dry weather,” Yarborough told Mainebiz. “The heavy rain also puts us in better shape for next year, although you never can tell about the weather. But there’s the potential for an even better season next year.”

Wild blueberries, most of which are sold frozen, can be stored for two to three years, he said. Last year’s small crop meant most frozen berries in storage sold out, so there’s high demand for this season’s crop. 

The harvest should fetch about 70 cents a pound, Yarborough said. That price, if realized, would be the highest value per pound in about seven years, according to the University of Maine Cooperative Extension. Last year’s crop was much smaller, but demand buoyed prices somewhat and the crop fetched about 62 to 65 cents a pound, Yarborough said.
Still, the Wild Blueberry Commission of Maine has estimated it costs 60 cents to 70 cents a pound to produce blueberries. Climate change that is warming blueberry fields, difficulty finding pickers and dry weather have put pressure on blueberry farmers in recent years.

Wild blueberries are smaller than cultivated berries, which are sold fresh. Downeast Maine competes with Canada in wild blueberry production. 

“There’s a niche for Maine wild blueberries and last year’s bad crop forced some to buy elsewhere or switch to cultivated berries,” Yarborough said. “You don’t want to see that happen.”

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