The British Columbia (BC) industry received welcome news late last season when both China and South Korea opened their markets to imports of Canadian fresh blueberries.
“Unfortunately, our season wound down so early that many of our producers were finished for the year by the time the Chinese inspectors arrived to view our operations,” explained Debbie Etsell, executive director of the BC Blueberry Council. “The Korean inspectors never did see any fruit.”
As a result, Etsell says that only a small quantity of BC blueberries were shipped to China and none at all to South Korea. Inspectors for both countries are tentatively scheduled for return visits in July.
“China is intensely interested in blueberry production, to the point where they are buying land in BC to set up direct growing and shipping operations,” Etsell said.
Since 2012, BC fresh blueberry shipments have nearly doubled, from 112m pounds to 170m last year, making it North America’s largest blueberry growing region.
“We have a natural climate for growing blueberries, and with new farmers entering the industry every year, our volume continues to increase,” said Etsell.
The 2015 British Columbia blueberry season was an unusual one; production was advanced by as much as a month by historical standards. According to Etsell, a very mild winter and good growing conditions in the spring leading up to the harvest were primarily responsible.
This year, British Columbia blueberries are tracking for a relatively normal start to the season.
“We’ve had a fairly cold winter so the plants are well-rested. It looks like we’re only about a week ahead of normal this year,” she said.