Consumers choose health

Welcome to this issue of Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses. Natural medicine has long held that blueberries provide health benefits. Native to North America, they are rich in proanthocyanidin, and believed to help in the fight against cancer and obesity as well as promoting glowing skin. Blueberries are one of the most nutrient-dense foods in the world, containing vitamin C, vitamin K, manganese and a broad range of antioxidants. On the Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) score – a lab test that attempts to quantify the total antioxidant capacity of a food – blueberries rate 9,621, making them one of the highest antioxidant foods available. 

In a recent study by the University of Exeter in the UK, it was found that drinking concentrated blueberry juice improves brain function in older people while there was also evidence suggesting improvement in working memory.

Over the past decade, blueberry consumption and production have risen worldwide, as growing numbers of consumers become aware of the fruit’s beneficial properties. In the US, per capita use of blueberries has nearly tripled since 2006. In recent years, farmers have expanded production to help meet this demand. As a result, net domestic production has doubled and imports increased by almost four times.

Currently, Americans consume about 80 per cent of world production, reaching an average of 1kg of blueberries per person per year. In the autumn and winter months, southern hemisphere countries such as Chile are in their growing season and supply the United States with a significant share of its blueberry imports. In 2016, net domestic production fell slightly, while imports increased.

By the end of this year, it is expected that global consumption of the fruit will reach 680 thousand tons. Demand for Australian blueberries is also on the rise with one leading Australian grower supplying fresh blueberries year round.

Given this rosy outlook for the blueberry market, producers across the world, as well as traders, are increasingly interested in this fruit. In addition to increasing health consciousness on the part of consumers and growing demand from the middle class for better quality food, blueberries offer one of the best opportunities to benefit in the medium-term for producers interested in increasing their per-hectare revenue and participating in a market that offers low volatility and more consistent growth than that of traditional crops.

Enjoy this issue!

Christine Brown-Paul

PH&G May 2017 / Issue 179