Suppliers 'missing a trick' in lucrative blueberry market

UK growers are missing out on the lucrative blueberry market by not investing in the soft fruit crop, Hargreaves Plants commercial director Rupert Hargreaves has warned.

The Lincolnshire-based wholesale plant supplier said growers were "missing a trick" when it comes to the berries - demand for which has soared over the past decade since they have been hailed as a "superfood".

Blueberries are known to be a good source of vitamin C, which boost the immune system due to high levels of anti-oxidants.

The latest data from consumer research organisation TNS Worldpanel shows that, so far this year, UK expenditure on blueberries has continued to rise. It has recorded a 36.9 per cent year-on-year increase - from £8.07m for the week ending 12 August 2007 to £11.05m for the same week this year.

Hargreaves said that British growers command just two to four per cent of the market - with most berries imported from countries such as Argentina, Chile, Poland and Spain.

He told Grower: "Blueberries can be grown extremely well and profitably in the UK. We have a business that's worth millions of pounds and its amazing that growers are missing this opportunity."

He added that blueberries can be grown throughout the UK and prefer free-draining soil with a relatively low pH. "Norfolk has many areas that would suit these conditions, as do many other parts of the country," he said.

However, technical director Tim Newton of BerryWorld, which supplies both home-grown and imported berries to the UK market, said growers have already jumped on board. "Quite a reasonable amount of blueberries have been planted in the UK in the past few years - in areas such as Dorset, Herefordshire and some parts of Scotland. It will take another three to five years before these plants come into full production. So we will see a lot more produce in the coming years.

"However, we have to be careful about how much we produce. We're in danger of over-supplying. It's a delicate balance - it might not be economic to grow too many, as countries such as Poland can produce blueberries for a lower price."

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