Understanding demographic of the Australian blueberry industry (BB13000)
This is a final research report from Hort Innovation’s historical archives. Please note that as these reports may date back as far as the 1990s, the content and recommendations within them may be superseded by more recent research.
What was it all about?
The Australian Blueberry industry was a relatively young industry in Australia which began in traditional temperate areas in Victoria in the mid 1980’s. Since that began, blueberries had been planted in all states and since the year 2005 have been expanding at an average growth rate of about 10 per cent per year.
The last survey conducted by the Australian blueberry industry in 2004 determined that Australia produced an estimated 2400 tonnes of blueberries with a farm gate value of $A24 million. Commonly quoted statistics for the industry were collected in 2010 from Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) survey results which estimated the Australian blueberry industry to be worth $A80 million. The industry identified that these statistics were significantly out of date and that the industry was considerably larger than figures suggested.
In the 2009-2014 Blueberry Strategic Investment Plan, one of the industry’s priorities was to make Australian fresh blueberries available to the consumer for 12 months of the year. This process had largely been achieved by growing new varieties suited to a number of regions and climatic zones predominantly in northern Queensland, northern NSW and in Tasmania. This had largely been achieved due to strong domestic demand for all berries.
Berry consumption including raspberries, blueberries and strawberries had increased worldwide due to the perceived health benefits of regularly consuming these products. Of all the berry categories, blueberry had outperformed all other berry categories and consumption although quite small in Australia relative to other countries, continued to grow especially in the over 50’s demographic.
The major limitation to planning for this expansion was the lack of up to date information about the size and production of the industry in the various growing regions. The information that was lacking included data on the area under cultivation, tree numbers, varieties grown, production methods and future expansion potential. A clear understanding of the operational demographics would help the industry, individual growers and government agencies plan and meet the future challenges to ensure and maintain a sustainable and profitable future.
This project conducted a national grower survey both electronically and by telephone to try to capture data about as much of the Australian blueberry production as possible across all states, to enable future planning. The data had been collated and was presented in an industry database and was made available online to growers as well as being available to planners.
The project found that Australian fresh blueberry production had tripled since 2007 with a total production volume of 6100 tonnes in 2013/14; this large increase coupled with a further 498 hectares of plants which would produce approximately 4530 tonnes of fruit in the next 4 years indicated the need to work hard to access further export markets and to continue funding research and development projects.
This work was presented to the industry through a presentation at the Australian blueberry annual growers meeting in November 2014 as well as being made available on the Australian Blueberry Growers Association (ABGA) website and via the industry journal “Australian Blueberry Grower spring 2014 Journal No.33”.
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This project was funded by Hort Innovation (then Horticulture Australia Limited) with the financial support of Australian Blueberry Growers Association Inc.
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