Berry Exchange general manager Peter McPherson, centre, and picker Surjeet Bhasin.
Berry Exchange general manager Peter McPherson, centre, and picker Surjeet Bhasin. Bruce Thomas

Super-fruit taking off

IT’S been 25 years since blueberries first arrived in Corindi.

Back then they were a little-known, rarely-eaten fruit.

Now, a quarter of a century later, what was Blueberry Farms Australia has grown into Berry Exchange, one of the world’s largest blueberry farms and an international horticultural concern with joint ventures in Morocco and the USA plus a recently finalised agreement with a Chinese company growing the produce in Thailand.

General manager Peter McPherson has been part of this growth every step of the way and said after some “dry gullies over the years” the big break came in the late ’90s when blueberries were recognised as one of the seven super-fruits, rich in health-promoting antioxidants.

“One of the very important things underpinning our success is the breeding program we started in the early 90s,” he said.

“We have developed what is now seen as the best early season varieties in the world and that is what is now being grown in Morocco for the European market.

“We have also developed a partnership with Driscoll’s in the USA, the number one berry company in the world.

“Our blueberries are now grown from Chile to North America.

“We receive substantial royalties payments for that.”

In Australia, Berry Exchange now has farms in Tumbarumba and Nine Mile (Tasmania) providing a year-round solution to the high customer demand.

“Australia is the only country worldwide to achieve that.”

The Driscoll’s partnership has given Berry Exchange access to raspberry genetics and the growth of that fruit locally. Mr McPherson emphasised that the contribution of local people on the Coffs Coast had been vital to the success story.

“We have a great relationship with our more than 2000 employees and also the OzBerry Group in Woolgoolga – the value of that can not be understated.”

He said this year’s crop was already ripening and looking good in spite of the rain.

And yes, there is nothing he likes better than to pluck a handful of berries fresh off the bushes and add some other berry delights and some yoghurt to make himself a hearty, healthy breakfast.

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