Despite the challenges following the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly the horticulture labour shortage, Australia’s peak berry industry body says there were no decreases in volumes across the different commodities. Moreover, Berries Australia Executive Director Rachel Mackenzie says that compared to the last year, for the quarter ending January 24, blackberries were up 70 per cent, strawberries up 13 per cent, blueberries 12 per cent, although raspberries remained steady.
Overall demand has been relatively constant but we are getting some mixed signals out of the marketplace in recent weeks. Consumer demand has remained steady across the summer with a positive post-Christmas trading environment. While volume price dynamics remain in line with historical data. However, she admits that there are some challenges for the industry moving forward, mostly caused by the Australian borders, which have been closed to international visitors for almost a year since the pandemic hit.
Australia’s diverse climate and new varietals mean berries are grown all year round, and with the industry growth, private companies continue to make significant investments in breeding programs across all four berries. Ms Mackenzie says many of these programs operate in North America and Europe with annual intakes of new varieties of all four berries entering quarantine on an annual basis.
She explained that programs will only advance varieties if flavour meets or exceeds comparators in the market place, in addition to required fruit size, yield, timing, disease resistance and crop presentation from growers. According to the recently released Horticulture Statistics Handbook, for the year ending June 2020, the value of the berry category was up by 11 per cent on the previous year to $1.04billion. Blueberry value was up 15 per cent to $389.6 million, strawberries jumped 11 per cent in value to $435 million and Rubus berries increased by four per cent in value to $216 million.