West Australian blueberry farmer expands operations by 500 per cent
February 25, 2015

A West Australian blueberry grower is confident more Australians will start seeking out quality, fresh Australian berries.blueberries_820133l65sq-300x300

Even before the recent hepatitis A health scare, and recall of some imported frozen berry products, Derek Fisher was building new hothouses and planting thousands of trees.

"I think you'll see a trend back to people seeking Australian product," he said.

"Unfortunately there's not a lot of frozen berry product produced in Australia because there's such a demand for the fresh product."

Mr Fisher said the margins for fresh Australian grown blueberries were so high that it was not really worth directing small quantities of 'seconds' fruit to the frozen market.

At David Fisher's property at Regans Ford, about 140 kilometres north of Perth, he currently has 13,000 blueberry shrubs but his family is madly trying to expand.

"By the end of this year we'll have close to 80,000," he said.

Mr Fisher praised Perth based fruit breeder David Mazzardis for developing the blueberry varieties that he is planting.

"We get (some) berries up to the size of a twenty cent piece and we get fruit into the market as early as May, June and July and that is well ahead of the fruit coming out of the eastern states and New Zealand." he said.

"That's when we get the good prices."

After expanding David Fisher will probably be one of the biggest growers in WA, but he will still be relatively small compared to the size of blueberry farms in other parts of Australia and the world.

"There are some big developments going in in southern Queensland," he said.

"We know of one going in there which will have about a million plants in it."

Mr Fisher's initial reaction to the recent hepatitis A health scare was one of concern.

"I don't like to see people hurting," he said.

"I've done a lot of business in and out of China over the years and it's not good for the Chinese."

But Mr Fisher said ultimately he thinks Australia's berry industry will keep going from strength to strength.

"I've seen some data that says it's one of the highest margin agricultural crops you can grow," he said.

"It's capital intensive but once you get it in and in today's environment where there's not a lot of growers, it is high margin."

Mr Fisher estimates that he probably makes more money from one hectare of blueberries than he does from his 70 hectares of olive trees.