One of the biggest growing regions in the province, Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows, has contributed greatly to an increased harvest of B.C.'s blueberries this season.
According to Debbie Etsell, executive director of the BC Blueberry Council, 95 million pounds were harvested in 2011 in B.C., with 105 million pounds expected from the 2012 season.
The difference is the maturity of the blueberry bushes, said Etsell.
"There's been a lot of recent plantings over the years and it takes a blueberry bush up to 10 years to reach full production," she explained, noting that wet weather in the early summer delayed ripening, but there was little impact on the berries otherwise.
Local grower, Newton Sahota, co-owner of Twin Berry Farms, feels that going forward the "whole [blueberry] system needs to shift," to accommodate the wet Junes seen in the past few years. But he noted a "great crop" this year.
"We're hearing from blueberry growers from across our core growing region, from Richmond and Delta, through to Pitt Meadows, Langley, and Abbotsford, and the overwhelming majority are looking at record volumes this year," Etsell said.
"Some of them are dealing with heat issues, which can cause berries to soften, but most of them are using crop management practices such as tightening up harvest intervals to ensure that the quality of the berries harvested stays high," she elaborated.
Traditionally, half of the blueberry crop is sold to the fresh markets, while the other half - including those that soften slightly - will go to processors and be frozen, made into juice, or other products.
"With such ridiculously hot weather, the berries have softened up," Sahota said. "But prices have remained strong because of starting later."
With local growers experiencing a later start and a slightly compressed season, they have the advantage of staggering the U.S. market so that prices are staying consistently higher.
This higher price is important as Sahota noted labour demands have been significant.
He expects the season to be shortened by a week, and with the heat in August, all of the berries were ready for picking at once.
"We weren't able to get enough pickers," he said, noting that this also added to berries softening on the bushes.
"For the most part, it's been up and down," Sahota summarized.