Costa's year-round blueberry supply is going from strength to strength, since it started growing berries in Far North Queensland five years ago.
It has had good yields in that region, as well as particularly good seasons in Corindi, Western Australia and Tumbarumba.
Since starting the blueberry farms with one hectare at Tolga in 2013, Costa’s North Queensland operations now cover 75 hectares and include new farms at Rangeview and Walkamin. Over the last year, an additional 11 hectares of blueberries have been added to the Walkamin site and are being harvested this season.
"There are new challenges with growing in the tropics and we are continuing to learn and adapt to the tropical climate," General Manager, Berry Category Domestic, David Jordan said. "We had our first commercial harvest of the Costa developed Arana variety, which has been successfully harvested in the shoulder periods of April, May and June. Together with farms in New South Wales, Tasmania and Western Australia, the North Queensland operation has ensured the Costa Berry Category is the only Australian grower, supplying blueberries 52 weeks of the year to Australian consumers."
Mr Jordan adds that the development of the market in northern Australia has been an ongoing learning process, adapting growing techniques to suit the tropical climate. He says Costa is lucky to be able to draw on the expertise of some of the country’s leading horticulturalists.
"We have developed new ventilation techniques to mitigate some of the challenges of a humid environment," he said. "We are working closely with the University of New England in New South Wales to explore pollination techniques. We are also working closely with the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries on best practice in pest management. We are continuing to look for opportunities to expand our footprint to ensure we can continue to meet the growing domestic demand for berries."
The majority of the blueberries grown by Costa are for domestic supply, with a small percentage of the crop going to export markets in countries including Hong Kong, Singapore, India and Thailand.
"We are exploring new opportunities for export and the industry has been actively lobbying the Federal Government to start trade negotiations with China," Mr Jordan said. "Costa is also extending its international operations, with five blueberry farms in Morocco and two berry farms in China."
Costa says domestic demand for blueberries is increasing by around 10 per cent a year, as consumers continue to see blueberries as a high value fresh fruit.