Drought, costs boost berry production in Canada

STORY: A swath of Canada better known for maple syrup is becoming a testing ground for berries normally grown further south.

Fruit sellers are having to weigh up new growing areas amid extreme weather, drought and high transportation costs.

Driscoll's and Natureripe Farms, two of North America's largest fruit distributors, are both running berry trials in Ontario and Quebec.

Canada's already a major blueberry and cranberry producer - but strawberries and raspberries could be added to that list in the future.

Sebastien Dugre's team at Masse Nursery, southeast of Montreal, is already working with Driscoll's on new lines.

"Quebec is not a traditional place to grow blackberries and raspberries compared to other regions in the world, but I do feel with the infrastructure that's available now we can come up with a more steady way to produce on a commercial scale good tasting raspberries for a longer season."

It's a clear indication of how climate change is disrupting traditional markets, according to analysts like Himanshu Gupta from Climate AI, which is also working with Driscoll's.

"We have northern and eastern Canada which is now becoming the hotbed for growing berries and many of those top berry brands are conducting trials in that part of Canada right now. So what we're going to see there is longer growing seasons, as is the case in the rest of Canada, and slightly better growing conditions for berries. My sense is that part of Canada will also become, has a lot of potential to service not just demands in Canada but also the United States, especially the northeast United States."

As costs in traditional growing hubs like California rise, the disparity with places like Quebec and Ontario will decrease - and that could make production north of the border a lot more viable.