Strong domestic consumer demand for berries on the back of health benefits, combined with the ongoing farmgate price squeeze for bananas, has seen the make-up of NSW’s subtropical fruit industry change significantly in recent years.
Australian blueberry production has quadrupled in the past seven years to be an $85m industry this winter, with 88 per cent coming out of the North Coast.
Extensive variety development has seen high quality North Coast-grown blueberries now available from May to October.
NSW Department of Primary Industries blueberry industry development officer at Wollongbar Phillip Wilk said demand for the ‘superfood’ had outstripped supply for several years running, with the market probably able to take double what is now being produced.
That has meant the 170-odd berry growers in the region have been able to command prices of between $25 and $40 for a tray of 12 punnets, weighing 125 grams.
With cooler conditions this winter slowing production slightly, prices have consistently averaged towards the higher end of that bracket.
Most blueberry specialists were originally banana growers who have now reduced bananas to about 10pc of their operations, Mr Wilk said.
These growers have also expanded into raspberries in the past two years and that industry has quickly grown to have a farmgate value of $20m, which puts it on par with bananas, once an industry worth three times that in NSW.