While Australia may only comprise a small fraction of the world’s berry production, the country will play host to the International Blueberry Organization’s (IBO) annual summit this year in Coffs Harbour from Sept. 7-9.
What the country lacks in tonnage for the antioxidant-rich fruit, it boasts in horticultural development and setting for an event of this caliber, following successful seminars in Mexico and Chile over the past two years.
“The Australian industry is over 30 years old and whilst only a small player in terms of volume, has been recognized globally for the quality berries that it has marketed over that period,” said Costa Group’s berry category manager Peter McPherson, who is also the IBO’s Australian representative.
“That and the success it has achieved in the breeding of earlier season low chill varieties that are now licensed globally has positioned us as a country of importance in the blueberry industry in particular.
“The IBO is all about sharing of information that will assist all growers to improve and I am sure there are many areas that growers in general can learn from some of Australia’s successes.”
McPherson said Australia could now produce fresh blueberries, raspberries and strawberries year-round, and was likely the only country to have managed this feat in blueberries.
“This has been achieved through a combination of new low to zero chill genetics that allow winter production and fine tuning innovation in extending shelf life,” he said.
Located halfway between Brisbane and Sydney, Coffs Harbour was awarded the Nations in Bloom Award in 2002 as the most livable city in the world for its size. “The climate all year round is great, but particularly early September in the beginning of spring,” McPherson said of the host city.
“Surrounded by beautiful beaches, a world class marina and a magnificent hinterland only 20km (12.4mi) inland, there is plenty to do both at the event, at the field tours and also particularly for those with a thirst for tourism.
“And you had better bring your swimming gear as water temperature will be ideal for those that enjoy the beach.” In a release, the IBO said the annual event will focus on information exchange and market analysis, while discussing the necessary steps to promote blueberry consumption and improve the industry’s sustainability.
“The IBO brings together representatives of the world’s major blueberry producers. It was established with the aim of exchanging firsthand information on production status, costs, future projections, main challenges, and possible solutions for partner countries,” said IBO chairman Andres Armstrong, who also heads up the Chilean Blueberry Committee.
“The discussion enhances our industry and promotes knowledge and consumption of this wonderful fruit that is the blueberry.” Armstrong highlighted a range of exhibitors would take part in the event, including China and Morocco which have been recently integrated into the IBO.
“The event will address Issues that are of particular interest from industry, beginning with production status and opportunities and challenges for producing countries, and then turn to advancements on health benefit research, the status of certain pests that affect blueberry cultivation, consumption market opportunities, and advocacy,” he said.
“The event will also commemorate the 100th anniversary of the start of blueberry cultivation in the US, which is the leading producer and the largest global market.” The IBO chairman added the organization had evolved favorably since its founding, with new partner countries and a higher representation of total global production which now stands at above 90%.
“IBO Summit events are a reflection of this evolution, where every year the schedule of presentations has drawn interest from a larger number of industry producers, exporters and suppliers. This year’s IBO Summit is also an opportunity for Australia, as it was previously for past host countries, including the United States, Chile and Mexico.
“Participating in the IBO Summit at Coffs Harbour in Australia is a unique opportunity to understand the global state of affairs of this industry and its main challenges and opportunities. And it’s all happening from September 7-9, right after the Asia Fruit Logistica in Hong Kong.”
McPherson added berry category growth had been very positive in recent years, but the food safety scare around imported frozen raspberries in February – allegedly linked to a Chinese processor – was a call to action for the whole sector to maintain standards.
“It certainly did create plenty of media coverage and was a regrettable situation, but at the same time a real wake up call for the berry industry overall to maintain ‘best practice’ food safety standards from field to fork so to maintain the trust of consumers,” he said.
“The growth in the overall berry category over past decade has been an amazing ride but we still have long way to go and we can only do this in providing fresh and processed berries that consumers have trust in.
“There has been a push to locally grown fresh and frozen product, and although Australia does now produce fresh 52 weeks of the year, the off season low production and higher prices does put the product out of the reach of the general consumer. This will be rectified in future years with higher volumes forecast in winter months.”
The 2015 meeting will be held on the premises of Novotel Pacific Bay Resort, Coffs Harbour, NSW 2450, Australia.
For more information about the event please contact Jayne Hindle, Amy McIntosh, or Jasmine Durbidge. Phone: +61 2 6650 9800; Email: email@example.com; or visit http://www.internationalblueberry.org/ibo-2015-summit/03/31/2015 Fresh Fruit Portal