Country Life in BC

May 15, 2019

BC berry growers get a boost

by PETER MITHAM

BC berry growers are celebrating the official announcement of renewed funding for breeders seeking to develop new varieties of strawberries, raspberries and blueberries.

The new funding will support researchers working to improve berry genetics to the tune of $200,000 a year over five years, or $1 million. Administered by the Lower Mainland Horticulture Improvement Association (LMHIA), the funding will support the development of superior berry varieties suited to BC.

“The program is expected to lead to improved crops, higher fruit quality and increased pest and disease resistance,” the federal and provincial governments said in a press release announcing the funding.

The funding is being made available through the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, the successor to the Growing Forward 2 program that ended March 31, 2018. LMHIA had applied for about $2.5 million in federal and provincial funding for the period 2018-2022, but official confirmation of continued support for the berry breeding program was months in the coming.

“We have been running a barebones program the past year using our own resources,” berry grower and LMHIA director David Mutz told LMHIA’s annual general meeting in January. “It’s very difficult to budget when you don’t know when you are going to get funding and what the ratio of industry to government funding will be.”

The official announcement of new funding is a vote of confidence in the future of an industry that faces significant competition from imports and high input costs relative to other growing regions.

LMHIA began coordinating berry breeding in BC in 2013, taking over from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.