Peter Breederland of Topgro Greenhouses in Aldergrove has extended the picking season for his goji berry crop at 1110 - 264 Street. Until Labour Day (Monday

New export market for B.C. blueberries

This is the first full season that B.C. blueberries are being shipped to China.

British Columbia’s fresh blueberries are known as small wonders and now they are being welcomed in a big market.

This is the first full season that B.C. blueberries are being shipped to China.

B.C. Agriculture Minister Norm Letnick visited Blueridge Produce in Langley on Sunday as workers were busily packaging fresh blueberries for the journey to China.

Rhonda Driediger of Blueridge Produce and Driediger Farms said, “This event marks a very exciting time for the B.C. blueberry industry and represents the culmination of years of hard work. We are very proud to be one of the first B.C. companies to be approved for exporting fresh blueberries to China. We are looking forward to developing long-term relationships and to increase demand by the Chinese consumer for B.C.’s exceptional quality blueberries.”

Last summer, a small amount of fresh blueberries were sent to China to ensure that the packing-and-shipping process met all the requirements in the agreement between the governments of Canada and China. The test run was a success.

British Columbia will now increase the amount of fresh blueberry shipments to China this season. B.C. blueberry growers could be looking at the potential of up to $65 million in exports a year, once the agreement is fully implemented.

British Columbia is one of the largest highbush blueberry-growing regions in the world, producing about 96 per cent of the Canadian production of cultivated blueberries. In 2015, B.C. farmers harvested about 70,000 tonnes of blueberries, an increase of seven per cent. Exports of B.C.’s blueberries accounted for $218 million, up more than 29 per cent from 2014.

The British Columbia government is focused on increasing agrifoods exports to other countries and building the overall B.C. agrifoods sector to a $15-billion-a-year industry by 2020.

Building markets is one of the key priorities in the BC Agrifood and Seafood Strategic Growth Plan.

The effort is being supported by a network of 13 international trade offices, B.C. trade missions and the development of direct-cargo flights out of YVR.