THE world continues to be in love with blueberries, a trend that could resonate well for Australian producers.
A recent report from Rabobank entitled Consistent Quality is the New Blue, gives a glowing overview of the global blueberry industry predicting that fresh blueberry exports are likely to expand steadily during the next few years, as growing regions continue to diversify around the globe.
It said companies are being pushed to be more productive and more efficient and to consistently provide high-quality fruit.
Improved cultivars will also play an increasingly significant role across growing regions.
According to Rabobank, global highbush blueberry planted area surpassed 205,000 hectares in 2020, and production is expected to continue to grow firmly in the next few years.
Most of the planted area is still concentrated in the Americas but the Asia-Pacific region is expanding fast.
North America, the cradle of the blueberry industry, continues to be a relevant blueberry-growing region, but production shares are shifting, with South America expanding rapidly, and new growing regions also being developed in Europe, Africa, and Asia, the report said.
Rabobank fresh produce senior analyst David Magaa said he expected global exports in 2025/26 to reach close to 900,000 metric tons, with more than 70 per cent coming from the top-five exporting countries: Peru, Chile, Canada, Mexico, and Spain/Morocco.
Since the 2019/20 season, Peru has become the largest global fresh blueberry exporter, and Chile is now the second-largest global exporter of blueberries.
South America-based Rabobank fresh produce senior analyst Gonzalo Salinas both Chile and Peru have outstanding market access, with tariff-free access to China, Europe, and the US.
"These countries are well-positioned to benefit from expanding global demand," he said.
While Australia does not get a mention in the report, it remains a baby in terms of production and exports.
According to the 2019/20 Australian Horticulture Statistics Handbook, for the year ending June 2020, Australia produced 20,783 tonnes of blueberries and valued at $389.6 million.
The wholesale value of the fresh supply was $497.4m with $427m distributed into retail and $70.4m into food service.
Just 393t went to export, about 2pc of the crop, worth $8.4m with the majority of that (60pc) going to Hong Kong, with other destinations including Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and Singapore.
Australia has traditionally been a net importer of fresh blueberries, typically bringing in 1000-1700t per year, with the majority of this volume coming from New Zealand.
IN terms of world consumption, Rabobank said the US and Canada combined still absorb the highest blueberry volume, but Europe is now the main source of demand growth.
In the same way, China is leading the blueberry consumption in Asia thanks to the growth of its local and imported supply.
On the homefront, figures show 56pc of Australian households purchased fresh blueberries, buying an average of 136g per shopping trip.
IMPROVED cultivars are set to play a key role across growing regions.
As the market becomes more competitive and consumers more demanding, Rabobank says consistent quality is vital to seize the growth opportunities.
"Breeding programs are developing cultivars for different chill requirements, focusing on flavor, firmness, and shelf life to appeal to more consumers and retailers. Growers may benefit from higher input efficiency, better yields, and the potential for mechanical harvesting," Mr Magaa said.
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