Northern berries like cranberries, blueberries and bakeapples could play a significant role in reviving central Newfoundland's economy, says the past-president of the province's leading agricultural organization.
"We're looking at a cranberry industry where we may see in excess of $150 million over the next five years invested, and much of that may come to central Newfoundland," said Mervin Wiseman, who was in Gander recently for the annual general meeting of the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Agriculture.
Eugene Legge, a past-president of the federation, is the new president.
Wiseman said that given the growing health-food market worldwide, there is potential for berry producers to do significant business. Aside from being nutritious, northern berries are known to contain antioxidants, which can help prevent heart disease and diabetes.
With the recent closure of the Abitibi-Consolidated paper mill in Grand Falls-Windsor, Wiseman said there's an opportunity for displaced mill workers to take advantage of this growing market.
A strengthened consumer interest in consuming local foods also points to the idea's potential, he said. Imported goods leave a significant carbon footprint due to the fuel burned by the transportation needed to get them here.
With the downturn in the economy and talk of government economic stimulus packages, Wiseman said the farming industry would be one wise target for investment.
"Rural parts of the province are looking for economic opportunity," said Wiseman, who owns a silver fox farm in North Harbour, Placentia Bay.
"Agriculture is synonymous with rural activity. It's a good and prosperous one. What a time now to do it. We need the activity economically. We need to build infrastructure and facilities for farmers. We need to grow our industry."