AUGUSTA – A federal government purchase of 10 million pounds of Maine frozen wild blueberries will help to stabilize prices driven down by another bumper crop, according to members of Maine’s congressional delegation.
Maine blueberries bought by the Agriculture Department will become part of schoolchildren’s lunches in the government’s nutrition program.
The USDA’s agreement to buy the berries addresses an “unusual supply situation,” Republican U.S. Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins said.
The senators and 2nd District U.S. Rep. John Baldacci requested the USDA purchase in June, saying demand had been reduced by the economic slowdown and weak market conditions in Europe.
A near-record harvest of 2001 coupled with an oversupply from the previous season drove wild blueberry prices down to levels not seen since 1992, the year of the previous record crop, they said.
Maine produces virtually all of the nation’s wild blueberries grown commercially, nearly 70 million pounds a year.
Most of the blueberries being purchased by the USDA were grown in Maine, Baldacci said.