How many Canadians would pick blueberries as Canada’s top fruit and vegetable export?
Demand began to percolate and a string of research projects elevated blueberries in the popular consciousness to the status of “super food.”
A boom was born: Canadian farms sold $149-million worth of blueberries in 2010 – overtaking apples, the perennial leader, which sold $142-million worth.
Blueberries are also by far the country’s top fruit and vegetable export, accounting for more than half of $400-million in exports last year.
Finding and expanding markets is key, production in both the United States and Chile has increased.
Demand in Asia could be significant, where the emerging middle class is spending on higher-quality foods. Exports to South Korea in the first five months of 2011 have already exceeded the value shipped in all of 2010 – but at roughly $3-million, it is still tiny compared with annual exports to the U.S. of about $150-million.
Exports to China are also rising sharply, but this year are only on pace to barely reach $10-million. Opening Asian markets to fresh berries will be essential, similar to Canadian governments’ work to stoke the market in China for lumber.
The pressure to find new customers is fierce. Similar to Canada, U.S. production is up 50 per cent in the past six years. Industry also eyes Chile, where production has more than quadrupled in the same span and now exceeds the prolific Fraser Valley.