Ocean Spray’s N.B. farm eyed as regional hub

The world’s largest cranberry handling company plans to develop its new farm site in New Brunswick as a potential “regional hub” for berry production.

Massachusetts-based co-operative Ocean Spray picked up provincial environmental approval earlier this week for a new 1,914-acre cranberry bog at Rogersville, about 90 km northwest of Moncton.

That’s part of a package of about 8,400 acres of Crown land, which the province will lease to Ocean Spray.

The company’s current Rogersville project is to be completed in five phases over four years, the province said. The first will be the construction of about 150 acres of cranberry beds, scheduled to begin this month, with the first yields expected in 2012.

“New Brunswick offers significant potential to meet the increasing global demand for cranberries due to its ideal growing environment,” said Randy Papadellis, CEO of Ocean Spray, whose grower-members include farmers from B.C. and Quebec as well as New Brunswick.

An investment of $8 million will be made for Phase 1 in 2009-10, the province said, noting the total development potentially represents an investment of $90 million and could generate about $45 million annually in economic benefits for New Brunswick.

“Having an internationally recognized juice brand such as Ocean Spray choose our province as the location for a potential regional hub demonstrates that New Brunswick is the place to be for business and that we have the expertise to produce world-class agricultural products,” Premier Shawn Graham said Thursday at a media event at Rogersville.

Agriculture Minister Ronald Ouellette added at the same event that an expansion to the Ocean Spray project could potentially create more than 100 jobs for the region, with future growth possible as the cranberry yield increases.

Cranberry consumption has seen a surge in recent years. Statistics Canada recently noted the total annual amount of cranberries in the Canadian diet rose 34 per cent in 2008 over 2007.

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