Mexico has the potential to be a game-changer within the global blueberry business due to its long season, innovative growers, new varieties and proximity to the huge counter-seasonal market of the United States.
That was just one of the take-home messages from the International Blueberry Organization's fourth annual summit, held the second week of March in Guadalajara, Mexico.
"Mexico is raising expectations and will change the landscape for the North American market by putting pressure on local late season production," Cort Brazelton, director of business development and international business at Fall Creek Farm & Nursery, told delegates at the packed meeting.
During a roundtable discussion moderated by Mario Steta, Driscoll's general manager for Mexico, attendees heard how blueberry production in Mexico could quadruple within the next couple of years, up from just under 10,000 metric tons in 2014.
Matt Blechman, blueberry development manager at Reiter Affiliated Cos., explained how Mexico benefits from a number of resources that could seal its success as a major supplier, such as its climate, soils and people, in addition to water and labor availability.
But as the industry consolidates its expansion, Francisco Ortiz and Sergio Vargas, owners and partners of Mexican supplier Berries Paradise, stressed that the sector must keep the end consumer at the center of any decisions.
All roundtable participants also emphasized the importance of developing the domestic Mexican market as an viable and competitive alternative sales channel by educating consumers about the benefits of blueberries.
A record 230-plus trade leaders from 16 of the world's blueberry-producing countries convened at the RIU Plaza Guadalajara Hotel March 10-12 for the conference and networking event. Key industry players attended from Argentina, Australia, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Guatemala, India, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, South Africa, the United Kingdom, Uruguay and the United States.
Portugal and South Korea were also represented for the first time, with blueberry trade representatives from the two nations joining the speaker program. The event also provided a unique platform from which to reveal the production projections for each of the world's major blueberry-supply nations.
"Every country representative spoke about rising production in their nation," Andrés Armstrong, chairman of the IBO, said in a press release. "China was the most optimistic about its future growth and it was a nice surprise to learn about the positive developments in Portugal. Production is growing in line with the expansion of blueberry consumption all over the world. Asia has the highest rates of consumption and eastern Europe is developing too."
Other discussions focused on finding new alternatives for generating, gathering and distributing information about blueberries, as well as examining the latest information on pests and health research.
All of the speaker presentations from this year's event will be made available for IBO members to download from the organization's website: www.internationalblueberry.org.
Launched in 2011, the IBO Summit has taken place twice in the United States, first in Orlando, FL, and then Fresno, CA, before heading overseas in 2013 to Santiago, Chile.
Next year's meeting will be held in Coffs Harbour, Australia, September 7-9, 2015, in recognition of Australia's important presence within the international blueberry industry.
The IBO Summit 2014 was sponsored by BBC Technologies, Biotempak, Driscoll's, Fall Creek Farm & Nursery, Flexo Soluciones, FMC and Hortifrut.