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Harper government's top secret raspberry marketing plan

Not first time creation of a raspberry promotion and research agency has been suggested

Who knew raspberries were so hush-hush?

The Harper government won't divulge any details of a proposed new marketing agency for the tangy red fruit.

The Canadian Press recently filed an access-to-information request for a November briefing note to Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz on the proposed raspberry agency.

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada sent back a copy of the note with every word censored except its title: "Creation of a raspberry promotion and research agency.''

The department cited sections of the Access to Information Act that deal with trade secrets and confidential information of a third party, and advice or recommendations given to the government or a cabinet minister.

But a quick Google search shows the idea for a raspberry marketing agency has been kicking around for a few years.

In 2012, the B.C. Raspberry Industry Development Council pitched the idea of a marketing agency to be funded by levies of half a cent per pound of berries sold in Canada.

In their pitch, the group said Canada needs a raspberry marketing agency because sales of Canadian raspberries have fallen in recent years as cheaper berries from abroad fill store shelves.

They say domestic raspberry sales fell to 30% in 2011 from 63% in 2006.

Still, their proposal was bullish on the berries' potential.

"The global demand for raspberries will continue to grow as the consumer demand increases for fruit and fruit-based products,'' it says.

"Although raspberries have benefited from this trend they are in direct competition with other berries, such as blueberries, because of their proven nutritional benefits and extensive marketing.

"Raspberries could 'rise to the top' if given the resources.''

British Columbia berry farmer and council chair Arvin Neger says it has been months since the group heard anything from the government.

"So the proposal has been in and we have yet to hear back from any representative of the government whether it's been approved or whether it's been denied or whether it's been partially approved,'' Neger said in a telephone interview.

The Agriculture Department has yet to answer questions about the blanked-out briefing note and the raspberry marketing agency.

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