United Exports manager Roger Horak recently acquired part of the companies that had been jointly owned by Peter Rolfe and Dave Mazzardis, a Perth-based breeder.
The deal will see Horak purchasing all of Rolfe’s interest in the entities.
Western Australia-based United Exports previously had licensing arrangements in place with both Early Blue and OZ Peach, and the investment will see Horak partnering with Mazzardis to release and manage varieties bred after 2012.
The Early Blue program is made up of southern highbush, evergreen blueberry varieties and has already gained traction in Australia, South Africa, Europe, Chile, Peru, Mexico and the United States.
Varieties that fall under the program include Oz Magnifica, Oz Julieta, Oz Bella, Oz Magica, Oz Bonita and Oz Monica.
Speaking to www.freshfruitportal.com, Horak said it was ‘wonderful’ to be a part of the blueberry program.
“The big expansion will be in the blueberries because of their evergreen nature, yields, the quality of the fruit they’re able to produce, and the timings,” Horak said.
“There’s a lot of interest, and in the way the global blueberry market has grown globally there’s still a lot of potential to develop that, so definitely over the next few years there will be a big expansion.”
Currently the biggest blueberry plantings are in South Africa, Chile and Peru. The frist commercial plantings in South Africa were made in 2013, and Horak said the plan is to scale up production on an annual basis through the company’s own plantings and those belonging to licensed growers.
“South Africa has been very slow to gain momentum with blueberry production. Variety-wise what was out there was very limited,” he said.
“For many years it was quite challenging to work out what the best locations to grow the varieties, and choosing the right genetics for the South African conditions – that’s where the Dave’s material has shown itself to be very adaptable.
“We grow it over vastly different climates across South Africa and we have quite a big expansion plan in South Africa over the next few years.”
In Chile, Peru and Mexico, three licenses were issued to grow the blueberry varieties. In each country one went to the United Exports subsidiary and another to Chile-headquartered multinational Hortifrut.
“In Chile the first plantings were in 2014-15, but not very large-scale. Again, a lot of it was about proving that the varieties can perform how they did in other parts of the world,” he said.
“Peru was a little bit easier because I think there was a huge gap in the market that Peru was covering, and the guys were a little bit happier to take a bigger risk on the adaptability of the varieties.”
Since then a significant expansion has also been underway in Peru.
Horak said peaches were planted on the West and East coasts of Australia, with enough production to supply the local market, and there were also plantings in Northern Africa and Europe.
“We will continue to expand the varieties, because both are very low-chill varieties,” he said.
“The stonefruit can grow in climates that traditionally don’t lend themselves to stonefruit. I think it’s about trying to work out where there are opportunities in the market for the stonefruit.”
Photo: Courtesy of United Exports