Continued investment in orchard development will see OZblu blueberry volumes rise 150 per cent in South Africa this year.
Upon announcing the production increase, Roger Horak, co-founder and global CEO of OZblu, said the additional volume would help meet growing export demand.
“At least 80 per cent of South African blueberry production is exported and more than half of our supply goes to the United Kingdom, while Europe, the Middle East and the Far East (Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia) are also significant export regions,” Horak explained.
“The demand for blueberries in these regions is on the rise due to the growing popularity of health foods and the mounting evidence behind the nutritional benefits of blueberries.”
A leading producer of new blueberry varieties in the Southern Hemisphere, OZblu made its first South African commercial planting in 2013. Since then, it has made a substantial investment in boosting the country’s blueberry production base alongside a select group of licensed growers.
Horak said the South African programme was underpinned by a sustainable approach to production.
“The high quality of our local product is what drives demand among global audiences, he explained. “To ensure that South Africa remains a top exporting region and continues to meet global expectations, strict processes need to be followed when producing blueberries.
“The extremely fragile nature of blueberries means that they cannot be mass-produced but rather needs to be grown outside in a sustainable, dynamic, biological environment.”
Horak encouraged the wider South African horticulture industry to follow sustainable farming practices, in order to drive the country’s economic growth.
“In December 2017, Statistics South Africa reported that the agricultural sector was the main contributor to the rise in SA’s GDP in 2017 - surging 14.9 per cent quarter-on-quarter – the biggest quarterly growth for the sector in 21 years,” he explained. “Growth like this is what we want for the industry and sustainable farming methods pave the way for this growth.
“With growth comes the rewards of increased GDP and its associated benefits and further employment opportunities. Furthermore, by investing in non-traditional berry growing areas the industry is actively creating new employment opportunities and farmers continue to play an active role in the upliftment of these communities through the empowerment of the individuals through job opportunities and associated training.”