FREDERICTON (GNB) – The provincial government has allocated nearly 1,600 ha (4,000 acres) of Crown land for wild blueberry production and development in northern New Brunswick.

“The allocation and development of these lands will contribute to making New Brunswick the largest producer of wild blueberries in the world,” said Agriculture, Aquaculture and Fisheries Minister Rick Doucet. “The wild blueberry industry is poised for expansion in New Brunswick.”

The provincial government 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 approval process was developed with input from industry representatives.

The current economic impact associated with wild blueberry production in the province 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 being harvested in New Brunswick.

“I congratulate the producers who have acquired new land to develop this industry,” said Doucet. “Wild blueberry production has enormous potential for fuelling economic growth in our province, particularly when you consider that the value of production at the farm gate has more than tripled over the last decade.”

In the fall of 2016, 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 the fruit.