After reaching new heights in China last month, the next International Blueberry Organization (IBO) Summit is set to take place in British Columbia, one of the world’s leading growing regions for the superfruit.
In a statement, IBO chairman Peter McPherson said the board had agreed to hold future summits at 18-month intervals, moving between both hemispheres at times when production is taking place.
“Whilst Canada like China is in the Northern Hemisphere, we already had them earmarked to follow China and so this will begin the new system and we will look to hold the following Summit in 2021 in the Southern Hemisphere,” McPherson said.
“We expect that Canada will be no different to past Summits in showcasing their achievements, innovation and presenting informative updates on industry matters of interest.
“After all it is, like past locations, a great and important part of the blueberry world.”
BC Blueberry Council acting executive director Anju Gill said while the event was still in the early stages of planning, it would likely be taking place in the Vancouver area in 2019, either at the end of July or early August.
“We’re really looking forward to hosting the event and showing off not only our BC industry but sharing knowledge with the global community,” Gill said.
She said acreage and production had increased in the province over the course of the last decade, while new competition from other countries had also come on the scene.
“The idea is to focus locally and think globally,” she said.
“Canada has a much smaller population compared to other countries so while we work on our domestic market development we are also looking to international markets, as well as working on not only enhancing our product in terms of food quality, looking at some of the most cost-efficient and effective ways of exporting blueberries.”
Cort Brazelton, one of the founders of the IBO and an advisor to the board, reiterated the importance of Canada to the global blueberry sector.
“British Columbia as an individual highbush blueberry-growing province or state is the largest in the world,” he said.
“Some are fresh but where they have a global impact today in terms of scale is because they’re present every week of the year in the market as a frozen deal.
“And Vancouver is one of the coolest cities on earth,” he added.
Insights from IBO China
Brazelton said the IBO’s Chinese delegation did a very good job of running the event, combining Chinese cultural characteristics while also demonstrating development in the Yunnan blueberry-growing region.
“One company (Joy Wing Mau) made an enormous effort to make sure this was an event that catered both to local preferences and was also very well organized to incorporate a positive experience for the international attendees,” he said.
McPherson said the recent event was able to meld Chinese culture and production investment opportunities that are supported by government initiatives, as well as showing an overall push for healthier lifestyles in China and showcasing enormous market opportunities.
“Also the update on the global blueberry scene via the latest World Report underpinned the growth to date and predictions going forward, particularly in countries where per capita consumption is still relatively low,” McPherson said.
“The “Night of Blueberry” musical feature was absolutely outstanding as an additional social/cultural presentation,” he added.
Both McPherson and Brazelton pointed to national trade association development as a key discussion point during the event in China.
“This is extremely important, particularly in emerging markets where volumes are growing quickly – this also relates to markets such as some European countries where the industry has been around a while but full industry representation still does not exist,” McPherson said.
He added this also applied to China which was “left to one major player to carry such responsibility”.
“The the IBO is unanimous in its goals to achieve such national industry representation, globally.
“It became very clear to me at least the positive impact of having an industry association or a commission or a guild, or in Spanish a ‘gremio’, and also how problematic it can be when they don’t exist,” Brazelton added.
“The level of information, visibility, forecasting, generic promotion, market access efforts that occur when an industry – when it has an association, commission or guild, voluntary or mandated – is incredible.
Brazelton also emphasized the IBO’s goal to “promote and empower individual country associations and organizations to be more effective, to promote locally, to promote within the markets they serve and to distribute the health message”.
He said the intellectual property rights of plant variety rights of several crops including blueberries could now be registered and protected in China, and he also congratulated the country’s authorities for making this happen.
“Fall Creek and a multitude of other companies are actively registering their commercially released blueberry varieties in China because there is now a process to do it,” he said, in relation to his family’s company Fall Creek Farm & Nursery.
“I think all serious players in China are now planting A-Grade genetics there – that together with best practice production, cool chain and food safety standards from paddock to plate will only enhance the consumption expectations of the Chinese consumer whom just happen to love blueberries,” said McPherson.