An influential new player in New Zealand’s growing blueberry export market, BerryCo, will tomorrow (February 8) share with growers in Tauranga its research into a jumbo-size blueberry that they say is wowing health-conscious consumers and taking Asian markets by storm.
The Eureka variety, created by respected Australian blueberry breeder Ridley Bell from Mountain Blue Orchards, produces berries the size of a New Zealand $2 coin. BerryCo has acquired the exclusive New Zealand rights to a range of blueberry species from Mountain Blue Orchards, including Eureka, and the first 40ha will be planted over the next couple of months.
Once established by licensed BerryCo growers, the new supersized fruit is expected to revolutionise the blueberry industry by allowing growers to compete on the berryfruit world stage. Export sales are forecast at more than $8 million in the first two seasons of New Zealand production, due to heavy demand for the premium fruit in South-East Asia.
BerryCo director Carwyn Williams says tomorrow’s inaugural grower field day was a major milestone in the development of BerryCo, which was founded on the belief that blueberry consumers should be given what they want.
“The MBO varieties are world class due to their very big size, crunch, taste and good shelf life. It’s our view that there is currently no other Southern Highbush breeding program that comes close."
“Future-focused BerryCo growers have invested in the licences and understand that we’re committed to growing the markets and their businesses in a sustainable way. Controlling the intellectual property means we won’t plant more hectares than we believe we can market at a premium and we can choose the varieties that will grow best in our various growing regions.”
Eureka’s export potential in South-East Asia had never been tested until last year when BerryCo shipped about 300 tonnes of the jumbo berries out of Australia, where the MBO varieties are firmly established in north-east New South Wales. The bulk of supply went to Thailand and Singapore over a four month period, with small shipments also sold in Hong Kong and the United Arab Emirates.
Australia’s tough phytosanitary rules restrict BerryCo’s access to certain markets but with different phytosanitary restrictions applying to New Zealand exports, local growers will have access to much broader markets, including Japan and, eventually, Korea and China. Last year the Ministry for Primary Industries granted an application for blueberries to be given “next priority” market access to China and Korea - a move that will benefit not just BerryCo but the whole New Zealand blueberry industry.
“Having tested the Asian market and our supply chain efficiencies, our main focus is now research and delivering our New Zealand growers the best high yield varieties we know will thrive here in protected cropping environments,” Mr Williams says.
BerryCo will be delivering its first 200,000 propagated plants to licensed growers this year, with the first plants distributed for planting in March. A second delivery phase will happen in spring 2017. With production possible after the first year of planting, it’s possible a small crop will be commercially available in 2017, with export volumes to be assessed later in the year.