De­mand for wild blue­ber­ries seen ris­ing in China

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - TASTE - By XU JUNQIAN in Shang­hai xu­jun­qian@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Hav­ing been pro­mot­ing and ad­ver­tis­ing Cana­dian wild blue­ber­ries for eight years in a row in China, Neri Vau­tour called this year the best and most ex­cit­ing time dur­ing his lat­est tour in the coun­try early in Novem­ber.

And the direc­tor ex­ec­u­tive of Wild Blue­berry As­so­ci­a­tion of North Amer­ica — Canada at­trib­uted all this to the help from a lit­tle crea­ture: bum­ble­bees.

“By 2014, we weren’t re­ally ready for the China mar­ket be­cause of the low quan­tity of wild blue­berry har­vest. But now, the time is just right for China with our prod­ucts,” as Va­tour told China Daily, after a blue­berry tast­ing and brief­ing event to­ward re­tail­ers and restau­rants in Shang­hai.

To bet­ter sup­ply the in­creas­ing de­mand from Chi­nese mar­ket, as well as other emerg­ing mar­kets, wild blue­ber­ries grow­ers in the At­lantic Prov­inces, west­ward to Que­bec in Canada, have in­tro­duced the use of bum­ble­bees few years ago. The buzzing pol­li­na­tors are be­lieved to ex­tract pollen from blos­soms hun­dreds of times faster than hon­ey­bees and able to work much longer hours.

Wild Blue­berry As­so­ci­a­tion of North Amer­ica-Canada now rep­re­sents four ma­jor ex­porters and 3,500 to 4,000 grow­ers in the Que­bec area, which claims to have wild blue­ber­ries for more than 10,000 years.

Some ar­gued that the term “wild” is more a mar­ket­ing word to per­suade pur­chases. But Va­tour noted that wild blue­ber­ries are dif­fer­ent from cul­ti­vated ones in that they are nat­u­ral va­ri­eties in­clud­ing more than 100 types with skin col­ors rang­ing from pale blue to dark blue ap­pear­ing on the same vine.

While cul­ti­vated ones can be eas­ily grown at most places, wild blue­ber­ries, ac­cord­ing to Va­tour, could only man­age to sur­vive in the glacial soil.

“Even if the soil is re­moved to other places, the wild berries can­not grow,” says Va­tour.

The char­ac­ter, to­gether with the health ben­e­fits be­lieved to re­sult from like an­tiox­i­dant ca­pac­ity, has been a ma­jor ap­peal for Chi­nese con­sumers, if not peo­ple all over the world as well.

“If I have to be hon­est, I think Chi­nese con­sumers, like ev­ery­one else, choose fla­vor first and health sec­ond. But we are lucky that we have both,” says Va­tour.

Up to 65 per­cent of the wild blue­ber­ries con­sumed around the world are from pro­duced in Canada. Among the over 30 coun­tries Canada ex­ports the fruit, China has yet find a place on the top.

Last year, six mil­lion pounds of wild blue­ber­ries were ex­ported to China. But Va­tour is con­fi­dent that with the sour­ing de­mand, it could soon sur­pass the cur­rent top mar­kets like the US and Ja­pan.

With the launch of China-Canada year from 2015 to 2016, there has been a grow­ing amount of agri­cul­tural bi­lat­eral ex­changes be­tween the two coun­tries.

Statis­tics from Agri­cul­ture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) showed that bi­lat­eral trade be­tween the two coun­tries has in­creased by 13 per­cent over the past three years to 39 bil­lion yuan. As of July, China has be­come the sec­ond largest source of agri­cul­ture ex­ports and im­ports of Canada, after the United States, ac­cord­ing to China’s Min­istry of Com­merce.

Chi­nese con­sumers, like ev­ery­one else, choose fla­vor first and health sec­ond. But we are lucky that we have both.” Neri Vau­tour, direc­tor ex­ec­u­tive of Wild Blue­berry As­so­ci­a­tion of North Amer­ica — Canada pounds of wild blue­ber­ries were ex­ported to China last year

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