It is harvest time at Metsi Berries in Limpopo. If you are a Fedgroup Impact Farmer with blueberry bushes, this is where your bushes are being carefully looked after.
Just over two years ago, owner Eduard Pauer, was unsure what the future held. After 22 years on the farm growing tobacco and corn, Pauer needed to find a crop with sustainable returns. He had already been forced to stop growing tobacco 11 years previously as it no longer generated a profit. He had then turned the farm over to corn. However, when a major cooperation closed in nearby Potgietersrus, it too was no longer viable and Pauer had to sell off parts of his land and equipment, and lay off his workers, to pay off debt.
After a meeting with Roger Horak, Global CEO of United Exports, Pauer made the decision to transform his farm into a smart blueberry farm growing OZblu blueberries. Traditional tobacco irrigation systems and kilns were replaced with new fertigation equipment and systems suited to blueberry production. Blueberry bushes are watered using drip technology, meaning less water is needed as it is delivered directly to the roots of the plant. Shade netting was installed to protect berries from hail and frost.
Metsi Berries now has 27ha of blueberry bushes planted and Pauer has been able to employ 45 workers permanently on the farm. Pauer and his team are busy upgrading employee accommodation in anticipation of employing more, particularly over the harvest season.
“I can’t wait to get out bed in the morning and into the fields. I enjoy watching how these small blueberry plants develop into something amazing!
I love eating blueberries but I have to watch my intake. My family loves eating them even more than me, I have to tell them to stop eating so many as they are going to eat away the profits!”
A growing berry market internationally
The blueberry market is a stable market to be in. Duncan Forbes, commercial director of United Exports, said blueberry consumption around the globe is growing, with Asia, and in particular China, showing the most potential.
“The blueberry category is still growing at double digits in developed markets, and growing by 5 per cent in the largest market, the US,” Forbes explained.
“We want OZblu blueberries to become the benchmark around the world: the preferred blueberry in the berries category and acknowledged by consumers and customers alike for our quality, consistency and great taste.”