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Wild BlueberriesSAINT-ISIDORE (GNB) – Oxford Frozen Foods Ltd. is investing $184 million to construct a new processing facility, develop wild blueberry fields and create up to 300 jobs on the Acadian Peninsula.

“Investing in the value-added food sector and in New Brunswick workers is an important part of our government’s plan to rebuild the economy and create jobs in our communities,” said Premier David Alward. “Our government is committed to working with strong partners like Oxford Frozen Foods Ltd. to grow the blueberry sector throughout our province and achieve the vision outlined in the recently announced New Brunswick Wild Blueberry Sector Strategy.”

The announcement was made today by Alward, Natural Resources Minister Paul Robichaud, and John Bragg, founder, chair, co-chief executive officer and president of Oxford Frozen Foods Ltd.

The company will begin construction of a $50 million, 12,600 sq. metre (140,000 sq. ft), processing facility in the Acadian Peninsula in the spring of 2014. The company will also invest in equipment and in the development of wild blueberry fields, creating up to 300 jobs over a 10-year period.

“It is now 45 years since I have been buying wild blueberries in this area,” said Bragg. “I worked directly with two pioneers of the wild blueberry industry in this area – Robert Breau and Omer Savoie. Their sons, Lorne Breau and Louis Savoie, are here today. Ten years ago we took over the operations of what is now Peninsula Foods. I am extremely pleased with the association we have with many growers. I firmly believe we have brought considerable value to the grower community through the transfer of technical advice and direct grower service operations. This is in addition to providing a ready market for the wild blueberries produced in this region.”

“We are certain this project will bring lasting value to this community,” said Bragg. “It will create economic activity and jobs. We have a proven track record of our commitment to the communities in which we operate. We look forward to commencing this very significant project.”

Under the terms of the agreement, Invest NB is providing a $37.5 million interest-bearing repayable loan towards the construction of the processing facility.

“Today’s announcement is a historic moment for our region as we are witnessing the largest-ever private-sector investment on the Acadian Peninsula,” said Robichaud. “The region’s wild blueberry sector has matured to such a state that we can now attract Oxford Frozen Foods to help create 300 jobs and bring prosperity to our economy.”

An even exchange of  6,285 hectares (15,712 acres) of Crown land for private land between the company and the Department of Natural Resources is also part of the agreement.

The investments are expected to contribute up to $8.6 million annually to the province’s gross domestic product.

Oxford Frozen Foods Ltd is the world’s largest grower and processor of wild blueberries with manufacturing facilities in the Maritimes and the United States. The company has been continuously involved in the wild blueberry industry in the Acadian Peninsula since 1968. The company is also one of North America’s largest producers of premium, frozen carrots and one of Canada’s significant manufacturers of onion rings and battered appetizers.

Invest NB is a Crown corporation focused on strategically developing foreign direct investment opportunities and encouraging job creation in New Brunswick. Guided by a private sector board of directors, its programs are designed to support and promote foreign direct investment by attracting new industries and supporting the expansion of existing industries within its core sectors.