Last year’s IBO Summit in Coffs Harbour, Australia had more than 300 participants, but this year’s event in Concordia, Argentina and Salto, Uruguay built on that success with more than 400 people in attendance.
“As convener in Australia last year we were very proud of our event but let me say with some 400 hundred attendees this year it has continued on in lifting the bar,” Mr McPherson said.
“Both the Argentine and Uruguayan committees must be congratulated particularly given that the past few seasons have not been overly kind to them – the presentations were of very high quality as was the hospitality.”
Blueberry Producers’ Association of Mesopotamia Argentina (APAMA) president Omar Chiarello said he was very happy with how the summit has developed.
“We have really been able to bring together the main actors, growers and influential businesspeople that decide and learn about the future of blueberry production,” Mr Chiarello said.
“The organization is growing, reflecting the global nature of blueberries,” added Oregon-based Fall Creek Farm & Nursery president Dave Brazelton.
“There was excellent attendance, I believe by 27 countries. As always it was an excellent opportunity to network with key players.”
The conference involved talks at the Concordia Convention Center, as well as farm visits in Concordia and Salto.
Blueberry industry discussion
Mr. Brazelton said there was a great deal of conversation at the event about continued growth in all regions.
“But new plantings are slowing in the U.S. and Canada as the market matures,” he said.
“There are also labor issues in many countries. There is a need to have strong social and ethical responsibility programs.”
Both Mr. McPherson and Mr. Brazelton remarked on tremendous consumption growth in Europe and China.
“This raised the debate over how best to promote continued consumption and the message to consumers about how good blueberries are for you,” McPherson said.
“Quality, taste and shelf life also came under attention as consumer research clearly shows that to sustain the per capita consumption the industry as a whole globally must deliver to consumer expectations 52 weeks of the year.
“Also the continued emergence of the new growing regions like Morocco and China made the spotlight. Market Access, logistics, cool chain, variety improvement and post-harvest also made for plenty of discussion.”
Mr. McPherson emphasized the importance of the “delight factor” that leads to repeat purchasing, underscoring a belief all industry players can grow profitably if best practices are maintained with the best varieties.
“There were learnings from the solutions that both Argentine and Uruguay are investing in to overcome the logistics nightmare of the past plus a major overhaul with replacement of newer, more consumer friendly tasting blueberry varieties,” he said.
“There was certainly a positive outlook and belief from the Argentine & Uruguay growers.
“They have excellent fields and retooled varieties, but they will feel pressure from Peru,” Mr Brazelton added.
McPherson said the next IBO Summit would take place in China but the timing was yet to be confirmed.
“The committee has made a conscious decision to rotate the event on an eighteen month basis between the Northern and Southern hemispheres so as to align with production.
“It is thought this will encourage greater global participation and value to members and industry supplier’s seeking innovation going forward.
“This could start immediately or after the China event but that decision will be made soon.”
The IBO is a global organization bringing together leaders from around the blueberry world in all segments of the industry, including blueberry producers and marketers, affiliated business, social groups, and governmental organizations worldwide. We come together to learn, share, increase, understanding, distribute information, address mutual challenges, coordinate potential solutions and explore opportunities. Ultimately, the organization exists to advance the health and sustainability of the blueberry industry.