- Associated Press - Saturday, September 19, 2015

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) - The volume of Maine’s wild blueberry crop has increased dramatically in the last several decades, but this season’s harvest looks to have been slightly behind recent trends.

The 2015 harvest is likely less than 90 million pounds, and possibly as low as 85 million, University of Maine horticulture professor David Yarborough said. Recent years have yielded about 90 million pounds per year, and the 2014 total was 104 million, which was the second highest total on record.

Several factors contributed to this summer’s middling year, including cold spring weather that wasn’t optimal for bees to pollinate the blueberries, Yarborough said. The berries also suffered from die-off during the winter months and a dry summer, he said.

“No disaster, no big crop, but the consensus I can say here is average to below average,” Yarborough said. “Sometimes too many great years in a row aren’t too great, either - it pushes price down and you have oversupply.”

The blueberry crop remains much larger than it was in decades past. The crop was about 20 million pounds per year in the 1970s and 50 or 60 million pounds per year 10 years ago, Yarborough said.

The summer blueberry crop is a vital, $250 million piece of Maine’s economy, agriculture officials say. Nearly all of the blueberries are frozen and most are used as a food ingredient, according to a University of Maine report.

The wild “low bush” blueberries are only harvested commercially in Maine and eastern Canada. The 2015 wild blueberry harvest is finished for the year in Maine and is wrapping up in Atlantic Canada.

Ed Flanagan, chief executive officer of blueberry producer Jasper Wyman and Son, said he wasn’t alarmed by the slight drop in harvest this year.

“There’s going to be enough blueberries for the market,” Flanagan said. “It’s not normal to get record crops in a row.”

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