A nutritious, delicious and power packed fruit that can be enjoyed in all types of dishes from deserts to snacks or simply enjoyed on its own, Australians go mad for fresh blueberries!
On average Australian farmers grow 17,000 tonnes of fresh blueberries that have an approximate farm gate value of $300 million.
Of these blueberries, 75% are sold fresh within Australia with the remaining exported across the globe and processed as a frozen product.
In Australia, blueberries are predominantly grown in Northern New South Wales around Coffs Harbour with a majority of production occurring across the summer months.
Blueberries are also grown across areas such as Western Australia, South Australia, Queensland, Victoria and Tasmania to ensure that consumers are receiving fresh Australian blueberries year-round.
Ever wondered how blueberries end up on our supermarket shelves?
In many cases, the blueberries in your hands today may have been in that field yesterday somewhere in regional Australia. It’s an incredible journey – made even more so because blueberries must be gently hand-picked and treated with extra special care.
Organisations such as the Australian Blueberry Growers’ Association work hard to ensure the most plump, juicy and fresh blueberries are delivered to your local supermarket or fresh produce market each day.
New blueberry plants are grown from small cuttings taken from established bushes. These cuttings are planted in trays, which are placed in fog houses for the first couple of months – where the plants bask in warmth and humidity, and get off to a strong start.
Once the cuttings have developed good roots, they are replanted into larger pots. For the next three months, these small blueberry plants require plenty of T.L.C. – full sun, daily watering, and a weekly dose of liquid natural fertiliser.
After about five months, when the plants are about 30cm tall, they are ready to head out into the open field. The grower typically spaces the bushes 1 metre apart in long rows. It takes 2-3 years before the bush is ready to produce flowers and fruit for the first time and 6 years to reach ‘full maturity’.
Being the delicate little morsels they are, fresh blueberries must be carefully hand-picked by people who know how to spot a perfectly ripe blueberry. Depending on the variety, most bushes are picked every 5 to 7 days. During peak harvest, farms require many extra pickers to cope with the large number of ripe blueberries.
From the field, the fresh blueberries travel in picking crates to the air conditioned packing shed. Here, they are carefully inspected for fruit quality and transferred into the familiar ‘clamshell punnet’ packs.
Only the plumpest and largest fresh blueberries pass the quality test. Fruit unfit for sale is removed. Much of this is frozen or sent to processors to make into other blueberry products.
The punnets are then individually weighed to ensure they contain exactly the right amount of fresh ripe blueberries, and are then packed into cardboard trays and cooled to 4 degrees C.
From here, they are loaded onto a refrigerated truck to ensure they arrive at their destination just as fresh as when they were picked.
These trucks could be headed for wholesale markets in capital cities, independent fruit shops, supermarket distribution centres – or even the airport where they are air freighted to Asia, Europe and America.
All this often happens within 24 hours of picking…so you can enjoy the freshest blueberries that Australia has to offer!
Find more great information about Australian blueberries as well as a range of delicious recipes via the Australian Blueberries website.