Politicians visit Langley with berry good news

The B.C. berry industry is getting $2.8 million from the federal government to do things like grow better berries and fight pests.

Pierre Lemieux, an Ontario MP and parliamentary secretary to the federal minister of agriculture, came bearing the fruits of the labours of B.C. berry organizations.

He and Langley MP Mark Warawa made an announcement Thursday about another round of funding for the berry sector. Driediger Berry Farm was the setting for the announcement.

The AgriInnovation program is a five-year $698 million initiative for industry-led research and development.

“Local berry farmers are an important part of the economy here in Langley. I am pleased that this investment will help the berry industry in the Fraser Valley and across the Lower Mainland continue to grow and prosper,” commented Langley MP Mark Warawa.

The Lower Mainland Horticulture Improvement Association (LMHIA) will oversee the project and funding.

LMHIA chair David Mutz said some this funding will likely go to the University of the Fraser Valley which has a berry centre but not Langley’s post-secondary schools.

Though Kwantlen Polytechnic University has a long-established horticulture school, it’s focus is not on berries but landscaping.

“A lot of research is going to be done on the farm,” Mutz noted.

One goal is to create cultivars that do better in local growing conditions and do better at fighting pests. The program will also research impacts of global climate change on berry  growing.

The B.C. berry industry brought over $200 million to the farm gate in 2012. Berry exports have doubled in the past decade, topping more than $211 million last year.

Under Greening Forward 1, the berry sector was able to get some key information about a new visitor from Asia.

“We had a new invasive pest come in,” Mutz explained.

Spotted wing drosophila  (SWD) hits crops just as the fruit is turning colour, laying its eggs inside and destroying the fruit. In contrast, fruit flies go after fruit when it’s overripe and rotting.

Funds from Greening Forward 1 helped the industry and experts do research on control protocols, timing of the insect’s activities and temperature impacts.

“It’s not in check,” Mutz noted.

And SWD is now North America wide so the Greening Forward 2 funding will help with research that will benefit the agriculture across Canada and beyond and help locals obtain research being done elsewhere.

“B.C. is a top Canadian berry producer, and key investments in innovation like this one, will allow berry farmers to stay ahead of the competition and remain competitive in the global marketplace,” said Parliamentary Secretary Pierre Lemieux, MP.

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