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Cranberries: The bitter berry that offers a sweet taste of success

  • Oct 07, 2020

Cranberries have been a staple at family gatherings ever since Indigenous people introduced the bitter berry to European colonists in the 15th century. Now they warm the hearts of millions of Canadians, especially during Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Quebec’s cool climate and short growing season allow organic cranberries to thrive in the region.

Cranberries are traditionally sweetened and cooked or dried to reduce some of their tartness so they won’t leave a bitter taste in your mouth. For many Quebec producers, the bitter berry offers a sweet taste of success.

North American cranberry harvesting began in the early 18th century and has developed over the years to the point where Quebec cultivated acreage now includes more than 10,145 acres, of which 3,944 acres are organic. With one-third of Quebec’s production being organic, the province is now the global leader in organic cranberry production. The province scores second for non-organic production after Wisconsin, United States.

The cranberry industry has faced several challenges in the last decade. The most significant challenge has been oversupply leading to price pressures for growers. Despite profitability challenges, Quebec cultivated acres climbed 79 per cent between 2009 and 2019, reaching 65 per cent of the total Canadian production in 2019. British Columbia accounted for 29 per cent of the Canadian market and Ontario and the Atlantic provinces round out the cultivated acres in Canada.

Cranberry cultivated acres in Quebec and British Columbia

Chart showing cranberry cultivated acres in Quebec and British Columbia. Source: Statistics Canada

The productive bogs in B.C. are challenged by the mild winters, which makes weed control a constant battle. However, when all conditions are favourable, B.C. produces a high-quality berry.

Cranberries can be eaten in many forms: fresh, dry, in sauce, jam, juice or in capsules. The demand for organic dried cranberries is strong. A consensus among producers is the growth prospects are good and acres are expected to increase year over year, but at a slower pace than in the last decade.

Vincent Godin, cranberry producer in Quebec, co-owner of Emblem Cranberry and president of the Quebec Cranberry Growers Association, said he expects the 2020 crop to be a bit lower than in the past two years in terms of volume, but it’s normal as cranberry plants produce more berries in the second year of a two-year production cycle.

“The stock is low too in the U.S. and in Canada so it should be good on the price producers will get this year,” he said. “With the climate change in the U.S., Quebec becomes the ideal region for the production of cranberries. The future is bright for our sector here.”

“To produce cranberries, it takes sand, water, a lot of patience, deep pockets and a strong business plan,” said Pierre-Étienne Parent, Farm Credit Canada (FCC) senior relationship manager who specializes in cranberry operations financing. “It may take five years for a new cranberry field to be productive. The key to success resides in the soil preparation and smart management of the critical harvest period. This is a large-scale and unique production that we should be very proud in Canada.”

“In France, doctors have started prescribing cranberry capsules combined with reduced doses of antibiotics to fight various infections,” said Godin. “Who knows, cranberries may soon be part of the Canadian medical repertoire and not just Thanksgiving and Christmas meals.”

Why eat cranberries?

  • They are an excellent source of vitamin C and support good bone health. In fact, a daily consumption of 115 ml of fresh cranberries satisfies the daily need of vitamin C for an adult.
  • This fruit is entirely void of sodium and contains very little sugar or protein.
  • The anti-adhesive properties of cranberries have positive effects on urinary tract, ulcers, gums and dental plaque.
  • They have amazing infection-fighting properties, especially for fighting urinary tract infections in women.
  • A regular intake of cranberry products may reduce the risk of recurring infections by up to 40 per cent and, in turn, reduce the need for antibiotic treatment.

About FCC

FCC is Canada’s leading agriculture and food lender, with a healthy loan portfolio of more than $38 billion. Our employees are dedicated to the future of Canadian agriculture and food. We provide flexible, competitively priced financing, management software, information and knowledge specifically designed for the agriculture and food industries. As a self-sustaining Crown corporation, we provide an appropriate return to our shareholder, and reinvest our profits back into the industries and communities we serve. For more information, visit fcc.ca

For more information, photos or interviews, contact: 

Éva Larouche (bilingual)
Communications 
Farm Credit Canada 
1-888-780-6647 
eva.larouche@fcc.ca