The New Brunswick government is greatly expanding wild blueberry production by allocating nearly 1,600 hectares (4,000 acres) of Crown land for development in northern New Brunswick.

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Agriculture Minister Rick Doucet said, “The allocation and development of these lands will contribute to making New Brunswick the largest producer of wild blueberries in the world.”

The province has offered Crown land in Gloucester and Northumberland counties to lease for commercial cultivation of wild blueberries. Growers submitted applications through a request for proposal process in the fall of 2015, with 37 applications being accepted.

Applicants had to meet several criteria to prove their ability to develop and operate their projects in a sustainable manner. Applications were reviewed by a committee of representatives from the Department of Agriculture, Aquaculture and Fisheries, the Department of Natural Resources and Opportunities NB.

The current economic impact associated with wild blueberry production in New Brunswick is estimated at more than $39 million, with about 360 full-time jobs and about $11 million in labour income. Last year saw record production of about 78.1 million pounds of blueberries harvested in the province.

This fall, another call for proposals will be issued for lands in northeastern New Brunswick.

More than 300 farm families are involved in the province’s wild blueberry industry. New Brunswick’s production currently accounts for 25 per cent of Canada’s overall production of wild blueberries.