Year-round sup­ply to Asia

A Trans-Tas­man part­ner­ship, set to sup­ply Asian su­per­mar­ket shelves year-round with large, nu­tri­tious blue­ber­ries, also aims to max­imise re­turns for its li­cenced grow­ers.

NZ Grower - - Product Groups - By Elaine Fisher

Called Ber­ryCo, it was formed around three years ago as a joint ven­ture be­tween two Aus­trala­sia fresh pro­duce com­pa­nies; Val­ley Fresh and South­ern Pro­duce to bring their separate blue­berry grow­ers un­der the Ber­ryCo um­brella.

With around 60 ha li­cenced in New Zealand of the Moun­tain Blue Or­chard va­ri­eties bred by Ri­d­ley Bell of New South Wales, the com­pany plans to co-or­di­nate har­vests in this coun­try with those in Aus­tralia, to pro­vide year-round sup­ply to Aus­tralia, New Zealand and Asia.

Vaughan Jud­kins, gen­eral man­ager of Ber­ryCo says the fruit will be mar­keted un­der the Eu­reka Brand, which is the only blue­berry brand now sold in Coles su­per­mar­kets across Vic­to­ria, Tas­ma­nia, NSW and Queens­land.

“The Ber­ryCo con­cept is to strate­gi­cally plant new blue­berry va­ri­eties through­out New Zealand, based on their sea­sonal tim­ing, to lengthen the sup­ply win­dow. Com­pre­hen­sive re­tail pro­grammes, with con­ti­nu­ity of sup­ply, will drive brand value,” he says. Ber­ryCo’s is grow­ing and Vaughan says its founders have ex­ten­sive knowl­edge and ex­pe­ri­ence in di­rect to re­tail strate­gies, global mar­ket­ing, global pro­duce dis­tri­bu­tion and pack­ing, im­prove­ment in grow­ing tech­niques, de­vel­op­ment of new tech­nol­ogy and adopt­ing plant va­ri­eties

The com­pany wants to li­cence more or­chardists, ei­ther new or ex­ist­ing, to grow its va­ri­eties and is of­fer­ing sup­port with ad­vice about set­ting up or­chards, plant­ing, nutri­tion, har­vest­ing and post-har­vest.

Grow­ers, who pay $12,000 for a li­cence and around $100,000 a hectare for tunnel hous­ing, plus other es­tab­lish­ment costs, can ex­pect to reach 30 per cent of pro­duc­tion within two years and 100 per cent by the fourth year.

New Bay of Plenty grower Tony Pon­der ex­pects to con­ser­va­tively earn be­tween $60,000 and $80,000 per hectare from his 1.5ha cov­ered or­chard. Last year a 200g pun­net of Eu­reka Blue­ber­ries grown in Aus­tralia fetched $12.95 in Sin­ga­pore. Vaughan says while New Zealand has a num­ber of ideal blue­berry grow­ing lo­ca­tions, from North­land to the South Is­land, be­fore the in­dus­try reaches full pro­duc­tion, it will have to ad­dress the pro­vi­sion of post-har­vest fa­cil­i­ties and labour force.

“We are well aware of the labour is­sues fac­ing other hor­ti­cul­tural crops and cur­rently, with blue­ber­ries, hand­pick­ing, not au­to­ma­tion, is the only op­tion so find­ing suf­fi­cient staff will be vi­tal.

“When it comes to post-har­vest, we are also look­ing into the pos­si­bil­ity of work­ing with ex­ist­ing fa­cil­i­ties for pack­ing and stor­ing, as well as the po­ten­tial to con­struct our own fa­cil­i­ties.”

De­spite those fu­ture chal­lenges, Vaughan says Ber­ryCo is con­fi­dent of its abil­ity to drive the de­vel­op­ment of the New Zealand blue­berry in­dus­try be­yond the do­mes­tic mar­ket - pav­ing the way for a bright fu­ture.

▴ Vaughan Jud­kins, gen­eral man­ager of Ber­ryCo ad­dress­ing the 240 peo­ple who at­tended the com­pany’s field day in July.

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