Spanish cooperatives sign University of Florida blueberry deal

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Spanish cooperatives sign University of Florida blueberry deal

Correction: this story has been revised from the initial version to include further details of the agreement, which relate to its regulatory nature to avoid legal consequences for Spanish blueberry growers.

On the back of blueberry production that has more than doubled in the last two seasons, Spain's Onubafruit has signed a deal that regulates production of varieties developed by the University of Florida (UF) in the province of Huelva.Overflowing blueberry punnet panorama

The agreement was reached between the two entities, along with UF's long-standing Spanish partner Rústicas del Guadalquivir.

A release from Rústicas del Guadalquivir said respect from Spanish growers and operators for the university's leadership in blueberry breeding was the only way to access the technology.

"On the other hand, its breach carries serious legal consequences, including criminal responsibilities," the release said.

The agreement will be offered to non-Onubafruit growers in the province  until April 11 to comply.

"After this extraordinary period, the University of Florida warns that it will act with the forcefulness given by the law, and that's both in the finding and reporting of illegal plantations on national territory, as well as the trade of this illicit fruit in the European Union," the release said.

"With this framework agreement - which has led to a sacrifice of economic rights for the University of Florida - and the opportunity to widen the rest of the professional collective of southern Spain, the work of hundreds of farmers, cooperatives, as well as operators and trader, will be able to be consolidated in favor of Huelva blueberries.

"The university is sure that this opportunity for regularization is an important step to professionalize and dynamize the crop, with legal guarantees to allow the collective to face the future under a legal and stable framework."

Onubafruit brings together five cooperatives - Cobella, Cartayfres, Costa de Huelva, Freslucena and SAT Condado - with annual fruit production of around 70,000 metric tons (MT) across a range of horticultural crops.

Blueberries only make up a small fraction of Onubafruit's tonnage, but the cooperatives raised blueberry production from 2,000MT in 2012 to 4,000MT in the last campaign, as the fruit continues to prove a good complement to the province's mainstay fruit, strawberries.

Under the recent agreement, Onubafruit will also launch an action plan to promote blueberry consumption in the domestic Spanish market, where it is less known.

Onubafruit recently joined the International Blueberry Organization (IBO), where it is currently the only Spanish company.

Last year, Onubafruit recorded revenue of €133 million (US$182 million), generating 3,000 jobs during the season.



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