China Blueberry Report 2020: Industry grows rapidly
20 years of commercial blueberry production; Planting and production area growing rapidly
According to the report, commercial blueberry production in China started in 2000. Two decades later, in 2020, the total blueberry plantation area reached 66.400 hectares, with a total production of 347.200 tonnes and a fresh fruit production of 234.700 tons.
There are seven Chinese provinces with blueberry production areas exceeding 4.000 hectares: Guizhou (15.000 hectares), Liaoning (7.800 hectares), Shandong (7.333 hectares), Sichuan (6.667 hectares), Anhui (6.667 hectares), Yunnan (5.000 hectares) ) and Jilin. (4.000 hectares).
In addition, there are nine Chinese provinces whose total production for the year exceeded 10,000 tons, namely Guizhou (85,000 tons), Sichuan (50,000 tons), Anhui (40,000 tons), Liaoning (35,000 tons), Shandong (33,000 tons), Yunnan (30.000 tons), Jilin (15.000 tons), Hubei (11.000 tons) and Jiangsu (10.000 tons).
In terms of fresh fruit production, each province differs in terms of varieties planted and production goals, so that the proportion of fresh fruit varies significantly from one province to another.
For example, in Guizhou province, the main cultivated variety is the Rabbiteye variety, and only 30% of blueberry production is fresh fruit.
In recent years, Sichuan and Anhui have seen rapid development of the No. 1 blueberry variety, which is largely grown for further processing to make health supplements, and has a fresh fruit yield of 60%. In contrast, in Shandong, Liaoning and Anhui provinces, fresh fruit accounts for almost all blueberry production.
Greenhouse growing methods help supply early ripening fresh blueberries
The report analyzed year-round price trends for blueberries grown in China, showing that prices started high at the beginning of the year before gradually falling in the latter part of the year.
The period from the beginning of March to the beginning of April saw the highest prices of the year, and prices remained quite high from the beginning of April to mid-May. From the second half of May onwards, prices were relatively low, reaching their lowest point in July.
The supply of high-quality, early-ripening fresh blueberry varieties was largely due to the use of solar greenhouse and multi-tunnel growing methods. These are currently two of the most important growing methods used in the blueberry growing regions of North China.
According to the report, by the end of 2020, the total area of solar greenhouses for planting blueberries had reached 2.010 hectares, with a production of 15.185 tons. Liaoning Province was number one in solar greenhouses, accounting for 63% of the total national greenhouse area and 56,6% of the corresponding production.
Shandong Province ranked second in this category, accounting for 27% of the national solar greenhouse area and 32% of production. The total national polytunnel blueberry cultivation area reached 705 hectares, with a production of 7.510 tons.
Shandong was also number one in the multi-tunnel category, accounting for 66,6% of the national total area and 71% of the multi-tunnel-grown blueberry production. Liaoning came in second, with a 17,7% share of land area and a 20% share in production.
The varietal composition has been optimized, with important differences, between the north and south
In terms of the varieties grown, the composition of crops in southern China has diversified, while in the north it has stabilized and further optimized. Over the past decade, the breeding of Southern Highbush blueberry cultivars has been unusually active throughout the world, while the breeding of Northern Highbush cultivars has lagged behind.
In the blueberry-growing regions of southern China, the main blueberry cultivar families currently grown are Southern Highbush, Rabbiteye, and Northern Highbush.
Southern Highbush cultivars grown in these areas include O'Neal, Misty, Emerald, Jewel, Star, Camellia, No. 1 Blueberry, Brigitta, Bluerain, and the L and OZ series planted by foreign companies, among others.
Rabbiteye cultivars include Brightwell, Wonong, Climax, Baldwin, Gardenblue, Woodard, and Powderblue. Northern tall-bush cultivars, whose characteristics help to make the most of the climate in high-altitude northern regions, include Reka, Bluegold, Bluecrop, and Northland.
Meanwhile, in northern China's blueberry growing regions, blueberry varieties are maturing and stabilizing after 10 years of optimization. Outdoor varieties grown in the Liaodong and Jiaodong peninsulas include Reka, Northland, Duke, Zuipo, Bluecrop, Legacy, and Liberty.
In the Changbai Mountains growing region, the main varieties are Reka, Bluegold, Duke, Northland and Zuipo. The main varieties grown with greenhouse methods in the north include Duke, Bluecrop, Legacy, O'Neal, Emerald, Misty and H5.
New Industry Features
According to the report, in 2020 more than 25 multinational companies invested in increasing the production of blueberries in China. In 2015, multinationals accounted for only 1% of China's fresh blueberry industry; That figure has now risen to 10%.
An important characteristic of large-scale planting by multinational growers is that they target the fresh fruit market, using their own trademark varieties and high-efficiency substrate cultivation techniques.
Substrate cultivation has emerged as a new method in China and possesses several advantages, such as rapid growth (with the first high-yield harvest after only one year), integration of water and fertilizer to allow precise application of fertilizer, ease of standardized production and reduction of labor requirements.
However, growing medium also has its limitations; for example, it requires a high level of technical and managerial knowledge on the part of workers and uses large volumes of fertilizer, thus it has faced some challenges in terms of implementation and development.
Another new feature of the industry is the use and production of varieties specifically intended for transformation into other products.
For example, the premium No. 1 Blueberry variety grown by Zhejiang Blueberry Technology Corporation has a number of advantageous qualities: it is highly adaptable to a variety of soil conditions, easy to grow, produces a high and reliable yield, is easy to process and contains a high level of anthocyanidins (natural pigments known for their health benefits).
It has become a pioneer variety focused on processing, revitalizing rural areas in southern China and contributing to the economic growth of agricultural households. By the end of 2020, the total growing area of the No. 1 blueberry variety had reached 8,867 hectares, of which 7,300 hectares were recently added in 2020, and the total production reached 22,000 tons.
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