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Big expansion into MBO 'Eureka' to come into production next year

Blueberry season starts at Tzaneen Blueberries

The first blueberries of the season within the BerryWorld South Africa group come from Tzaneen Blueberries, the enterprise of Henry Hayes and partners where harvesting of 'Snowchaser', an early Southern Highbush low-chill variety, has just started.

Because the European blueberry season is still in full swing, the first blueberries are marketed to South African supermarkets by Eurafruit Local. 

Next month, September, exports to Europe will start and the blueberry season on this Limpopo farm runs until the end of October, possibly into November.

The University of Florida low-chill blueberry varieties have done well in the Tzaneen climate and Hayes also plants another UF variety ‘Jewel’, whose harvest follows that of 'Snowchaser', in mid-September.

Now they’re making a substantial investment in the Australian Mountain Blue Orchards-bred 'Eureka' blueberry, also a low-chill Southern Highbush variety, known for its jumbo size and the fruit’s crunch: 50 000 pots (20 litre) are currently being planted with 'Eureka' at Tzaneen Blueberries. The first commercial harvest is expected in a year.

Regrowth on blueberries after the mid-summer pruning

Up until now, all of the blueberry plants at Tzaneen Blueberries were on ridges in open-land cultivation but this large Eureka expansion will all be in pots. “Blueberries have a pathetic root system and they’re multiplied through tissue culture, there’s no grafting and no variety with outstanding rootstock,” says Hayes who has been farming with soft fruit for over a decade. “They’re very prone to water stress but at the same time they also get waterlogged easily and their root systems are shallow, so by cultivating them in pots we have better control, there’s better management of water and fertilisation. It’s just more scientific.”

Dutch company Legro’s substrate is used in these pots. “It’s a tried and tested growing medium, recommended by the BerryWorld technical team in Stellenbosch,” says Hayes.

Blueberry bushes in open-land cultivation at left back, with some of the 50 000 pots prepared for the expansion into the MBO 'Eureka' cultivar 

“Our own crop looks good, we just have to get it off, but conditions are promising for a good export season. The season of 2015/1016 exceeded our expectations,” says Hayes. “We’re in a privileged position: EU demand exceeds supply. The domestic demand grows slowly and we need to bring down the price. Hopefully as more blueberry growers come into production, prices will come down. The price of blueberries at supermarkets has to be lowered to hook the audience.” 

Blueberries are still out of reach for most South African consumers: a week ago, a 400g punnet of blueberries sold for R80 (€5) at a South African supermarket.

For more information:
Henry Hayes
Tzaneen Blueberries
Tel: +27 21 808 6640 (BerryWorld South Africa)

Publication date: 8/11/2017
Author: Carolize Jansen
Copyright: www.freshplaza.com


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