Blueberries at Smart Berries in Mundubbera.
Blueberries at Smart Berries in Mundubbera. Tobi Loftus

NSW blueberry industry predicted to reach $200 million

BLUEBERRIES from the Northern Rivers are predicted to reach new international consumers thanks to a change in quarantine treatment.

"Low-dose irradiation treatment effectively eradicates Queensland fruit fly without affecting fruit quality or nutritional value,” said NSW Department of Primary Industries Horticulture Director Shane Hetherington on Friday.

Irradiation treatment was developed as part of research at the Centre of Excellence for Market Access in Ourimbah on the NSW central coast, with the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation.

The treatment will replace the practice of storing berries at 2ºC for 14 days prior to export, Dr Hetherington said and has been approved by the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code for blueberries and raspberries.

He said the research, funded by the DPI, Australian Blueberry Growers Association, Raspberries and Blackberries Australia and Horticulture Innovation Australia, had been accepted and published in international scientific journals.

"It is a safe proven technology which allows treated produce to access new export markets, like Indonesia, where the treatment is accepted,” he said.

The NSW blueberry industry produced around 6,900 tonnes of produce each year, valued at around $140 million, and the Northern Rivers was "Australia's blueberry capital”, said a DPI spokeswoman in a media statement.

Stakeholders at the Australian Blueberry Growers Association expected the figure to increase by nearly 43% to $200 million in the 2016-17 financial year.

"The presence of quarantine pests such as Queensland fruit fly requires fruit to be treated or certified before accessing a number of important markets nationally and internationally,” said Dr Hetherington.

Expanding into new markets was a key priority for the future profitability of the NSW and Australian industries, he said.

"This treatment is welcomed by industry as it is a much quicker process for fresh, perishable produce.”



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