Jumbo blueberry to boost NZ industry by $8m in two years
February 9, 2017

A jumbo blueberry the size of a $2 coin is about to be planted in New Zealand, boosting the $57 million-a-year industry.1486613296877

Tauranga-based company BerryCo, which has bought the rights to the super-sized eureka variety developed in Australia, claims that after two growing seasons it could be worth $8m a year in exports.

This is based on a trial shipment sent to Asian and Middle Eastern countries last year. In Singapore 200 gram punnets sold for $12.95 each.

The company is now on the lookout for growers to buy licences for the variety, although it is not prepared to divulge the cost.

BerryCo director Carwyn Williams said the first 40 hectares of eureka would be planted "in the next couple of months" in the main blueberry regions of the Far North, Bay of Plenty, Waikato and Nelson.

The first 200,000 propagated plants would be delivered to licensed growers this year, with the first plants distributed for planting in March. A second delivery phase would happen in spring 2017.

"With production possible after the first year of planting, it's possible a small crop will be commercially available in 2017, with export volumes to be assessed later in the year."

Unlike most blueberries which are grown over warmer months, the eureka variety will be grown in tunnel houses and harvested between August and October.

BerryCo is a joint venture between Bay of Plenty's Southern Produce and Valleyfresh in Victoria, Australia. The company also has a significant collaboration with Miro LP Ltd, established recently by a collaboration of Māori growers and investors.

In only a year it has accumulated more than 25 per cent of New Zealand's $35 million export market.

Williams said by controlling the intellectual property of the variety, BerryCo would not plant more hectares than it believed it could market at a premium.

He said New Zealand was in a good position because it did not have as many pests compared to Australia, such as fruit fly, and so growers had access to more markets, including Japan and eventually Korea and China.

Last year the Ministry for Primary Industries granted an application for blueberries to be given "next priority" market access to China and Korea.

The eureka blueberry was discovered as a chance seedling by Australian breeder Ridley Bell in 2008, by naturally crossing two varieties which by surprise resulted in an outsized hybrid without the use of any genetic modification.

About 700 ha of blueberry crops are grown in New Zealand, with about 25 commercial growers and another 50 part-time. Predictions are the export industry could be worth more than $60m by 2022.