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June heat wave takes its toll on Quebec strawberry crops

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Strawberry farmers in Quebec are in damage control after this week's extreme heat soured the beloved summertime fruit.

Three days of above 30-degree temperatures left its mark and burned the strawberries.

On Friday, customers at the Ferme chez Mario fruits et légumes southeast of Montreal had their pick of the strawberry fields and France Hamel is one of their most loyal customers.

"The berries were excellent last weekend, they were really sweet. This week, they're a little more rare, a little bit more rotten and they're not as sweet as they were last week," Hamel said.

The change in taste is due to the recent heat wave, according to farmer Mathieu Beauregard.

"It's a fruit that prefers weather between 20 and 25 C," he said.

"The foliage goes down and the berries come to the surface and they burn like this."

Mathieu Beauregard, co-owner of Ferme chez Mario fruits et légumes. (CTV News)

The heat also kept pickers away.

"The biggest problem is people don't come to pick berries when it's hot like this. The strawberries don't wait for the client," Beauregard said.

The heat wave isn't the only challenge Quebec's strawberry producers have to weather. With an early start to the season they went head-to-head with California strawberries, which are priced at a lower rate.

Still, farmers say customers can taste the difference.

As the largest producer of strawberries in Canada, Quebec has a vast field of experience to draw from.

Beauregard has seen his share of bad weather and has diversified his crops.

He has a dedicated crew to pick the berries but he says he also needs help from the public.

"We need to have the weather on our side, we need to have people at the right time," he said.

"This week is the end of school and people need to find activities. So, if it can help people to come to the farm it will be awesome."

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