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Business and Economy

Maine on Track for Strong Cranberry Harvest

BANGOR, Maine - As autumn produce starts hitting the shelves, Maine's cranberry harvest appears to be strong, despite fears over drought conditions.

"Might even prove to be a little bit above average size yield this year," says Charles Armstrong, a cranberry expert with the University of Maine Cooperative Extension Service.

Armstrong says growers across the state have had to irrigate crops to stay ahead of the drought, but he says some growers are reporting their largest yields ever, with good fruit size and weight - a relief in a market that's struggled in recent years "because the price has been depressed for a number of years now," Armstrong says. "But I think we've seen the bottom of that and there are already rumors that the price is going to start going up again."

Last year, Maine lost its biggest cranberry grower, Cherryfield Foods, with several other growers declining to harvest due to low prices.

Wet-harvested berries destined for sauce and processing - which account for the greatest part of the crop - are still fetching prices as low as 20 cents per pound.

Dry-harvest - the kind found in bags in the produce department - are fetching about $1.50 to $5.50 per pound.

Organic berries have suffered very little, with growers sharing a small niche market, and getting better than $5 per pound.

Maine growers are expected to harvest between a million and a million-and-a-half pounds of cranberries this year.