B.C. blueberries were ripening on the vine as the ideas were flowing during the International Blueberry Organization’s (IBO) Summit (held in B.C. from June 24 – 26) where nearly 400 attendees gathered to hear the latest from global leaders in the blueberry industry.
Delegates from as far away as South Africa, Morocco, Argentina, China, Mexico, the United Kingdom and various European countries (to name just a few) joined the local industry stakeholders to increase understanding, share information, talk about mutual challenges (and solutions) and to explore future opportunities in the global blueberry industry.
The three-day Summit was kicked off with a field trip to Valley Select Foods in Abbotsford where delegates picked and tasted some of BC’s finest fruits right off the bush. As well, they had a first-hand look at Valley Select’s advanced packaging and processing facility. Save On Foods in Cloverdale also opened their doors to showcase their fresh, frozen and diverse selection of blueberry products and speak about the increasing demand for berries. A drive back from Abbotsford to Vancouver through the Fraser Valley wrapped up a comprehensive tour of the Blueberry Industry in British Columbia.
Peter McPherson, Chair of the IBO, officially welcomed delegates and congratulated the BC Blueberry Council organizers for their outstanding efforts in putting together this conference, which is held approximately every 18 months. The opening keynote speaker was the Honourable Lana Popham, BC‘s Minister of Agriculture (and a former farmer), who focused her remarks on the important role played by women in agriculture.
BC is the largest highbush growing area in Canada and ranks third in the world behind the U.S. and Chile in terms of production volume. B.C.’s 600 growers produce approximately 150 million pounds (68,000 tonnes) a year. Seventy per cent of the BC crop is exported to various countries with the US being the primary market.
British Columbia leads in packing and processing technology advancement and grows some of the best quality blueberries for the global markets,” said Abbotsford-based Parm Bains, chair of the IBO Organizing Committee. “Along with some of the most ideal growing conditions and high food safety standards, blueberries are known for health benefits, putting our berries in high demand from customers around the world.”
“We are thrilled with the overall success of this year’s IBO summit,” said Anju Gill, executive director of the BC Blueberry Council. “I know all participants, especially our BC blueberry industry, benefited from this conference as they were able to learn and share ideas with the top players in our industry."
With a theme of The Future is Bright Blue, the highly anticipated conference featured a broad range of educational and forward-thinking sessions, panels and presentations, which enlightened attendees on the latest developments and future trends in production, marketing, logistics, equipment, trade and market access, substrate production, breeding and genetics, retail and more.
“It was a great event, a unique instance to gather the global industry together in one of the most beautiful growing regions in the world,” concluded the IBO Chair, Peter McPherson. “This IBO event again raised the bar – a continuing theme on past Summits.”
The next IBO Summit will be held in Peru in 2020.
BC’s blueberry industry started in the 1920s when blueberries were first planted in the bog area of Richmond. In the 1930s and 40s it expanded to the Pitt Meadows area and then in the 1950s expanded into the Fraser Valley. The BC Blueberry Council was formed in 1989 and today represents over 600 highbush growers. Combined these growers have 12,141 hectares (30,000 acres) of highbush blueberries planted in order to meet growing demand. The BC Blueberry Council has a strong commitment to on-farm food safety and works diligently with blueberry growers and collaborates with packers and processors to ensure that BC blueberries meet the highest standards for food safety and quality.