International Blueberry Conference recap

Blueberry growers should change their methods

The 11th International Blueberry Conference gathered over 500 participants from numerous European countries. There were visitors from Ukraine, Lithuania, Belarus, Germany, the Netherlands, Romania, Croatia, Great Britain, Spain, Italy, Slovakia, Georgia and even distant Jordan. Many topics were discussed during the conference. It seems that changes are needed on the blueberry market - on plantations, in production, in trade and marketing.

How to increase blueberry consumption?
Among the issues that seem to be crucial for the future of the blueberry business is quality. All over the world, there is a trend indicating a regular increase in blueberry consumption. The leaders in this aspect are the Americans, where the consumption per person is 1.2 kg of blueberries per year - said Thomas Drahorad representing the Italian magazine Italian Berry. Blueberry consumption is also steadily increasing in Europe. According to Rabobank data, in 2014 the average European ate about 150 g of blueberries, and in 2022 – 600 g. Forecasts indicate that in 2026 the average consumption of blueberries in Europe will exceed 1 kg / person, which would mean a 100% increase compared to 2021. We can already see that in some markets the level of market penetration is very high and it is difficult to count on its continuous growth. Therefore, at this point it becomes crucial to convince customers who are already consumers of blueberries to buy and eat more of them. This can be achieved through good quality and repeatability - emphasized Thomas Drahorad.

Through the appropriate selection of varieties, but also through the proper preparation of the product for sale. Undoubtedly, growing depreciation awaits growers, also in the field of sorting and preparing fruit for sale. Laura Vignoli from Unitec talked about it. Solutions offered by Unitec, means the selection of fruit becomes more accurate, the packaging is more homogeneous. It becomes crucial to further improve the sorting process by being able to classify the by-product into different classes, and sell each of them at the best possible price.

Blueberry harvest - costs and workers availability
The need for mechanization can also be seen in the field of harvesting. This topic was raised during the debate by Leon Schrijnwerkers, a nurseryman and grower from the Netherlands. Invited experts tried to answer the question "Who will pick blueberries in Europe?".

In the Netherlands and Germany, we already have very high blueberry production costs. In the Netherlands, the total cost of blueberry production last year was EUR 3.75/kg, with the cost of hand-harvesting alone at EUR 1.8/kg. However, when blueberries are harvested with a machine, the cost of harvesting is reduced to EUR 0.65/kg, and amounts to EUR 2.60/kg - informed the Dutch grower. It must be taken into account that in the coming years production costs will continue to increase and it will be even more difficult to recruit employees. That is why it is necessary to prepare plantations for mechanical harvesting now.  

For more information:
Mariusz Podymniak
Tel. 608 500 501 

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