Que. blueberry processor gets startup loans

Two federal government programs will put up a total of $1.15 million in repayable startup funding for a Quebec company to launch a blueberry processing business.

The company, Bleuets Deshydrates, will get $700,000 from the Innovation Support component of the Business and Regional Growth program and $450,000 from the Business Startup and Succession Fund, a $6 million federal stimulus fund for Quebec.

The latter contribution will allow the SADC (Community Futures Development Corporation) Lac-St-Jean Ouest to finance the project, the federal government said in a release Tuesday.

These loans are meant to allow the company, based at Dolbeau-Mistassini, about 120 km northwest of Chicoutimi, to buy equipment to process dwarf blueberries, leveraging an overall investment of nearly $5 million and the creation of six “quality” jobs, the government said.

Bleuets Deshydrates will rely on a technological process never before used in Canada to process the berries in a way that preserves the fruit’s full flavour and nutritional value, the release noted.

“Further jobs may be generated once demand is sufficient to justify the addition of a production line,” the government added.

As the only facility of its kind in Canada, the plant is expected to export some of its production to “several foreign markets” and to help build new market opportunities for blueberry freezing plants, the government said.

The blueberry plant’s startup “will help the community build on its efforts to revitalize a regional economy badly shaken by the crisis in the forest sector,” the release noted, adding that the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean region is “currently looking to develop its specialization in high value-added activities like agri-food processing.”

“Given the growing demand for dehydrated blueberries and blueberry concentrates, the creation of a firm like Bleuets Deshydrates is welcome news for Quebec’s agri-food sector,” the government said.

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