The VI National Colloquium on Small Fruit Production brought together 250 experts from academia, production and support industries in an enriching exchange of knowledge about the present and future of the small fruit sector. The event took place in version
online on May 21st and 22nd.
In the opening session, the Secretary of State for Agriculture and Rural Development, Rui Martinho, recognized that the small fruit sector has an undeniable contribution to the trade balance, generating 247 million euros in exports, in 2020, that is, 15 % of the total value of national exports of fruit and vegetables. Raspberry contributed 183 million euros, representing 74% of small fruit exports and around 25% of Portuguese fruit exports. The blueberry had a growth of 45.6% in value with 32.5 million euros and the blackberry already represents 19.5 million euros. The theme of the colloquium “Sustainability of Small Fruit Production” was present transversally in the several thematic sessions – “Material
Plant and Production Technologies”, “Irrigation, Fertilization and Sustainability”, “Quality, Post-harvest and Human Health”, “Vegetable Health”, “CompetitiveSouthBerries Operational Group” -, in the poster sessions, as well as in the roundtable and virtual technical visits, these carried out on the second day of the event. The colloquium was jointly organized by the National Institute of Agrarian and Veterinary Research, the Portuguese Association of Horticulture and the National Operational and Technological Center for Fruit and Vegetables.
Vision of the future and challenges of growing small fruits
Asia could be the new El Dorado for the sale of blackberries and raspberries and world consumption of blueberries could triple in the short term. What does the future hold for the row of small fruits? What challenges and opportunities at a global level?
Marta Batista, Driscoll’s Global Director of Strategic Research and Technology Adoption, presented her vision on this topic at
VI National Colloquium on Small Fruit Production, where she was the main speaker. The high impact of climate change on production, with a general increase in extreme events, and the decrease in the availability and reduction of water quality for irrigation, appear at the top of the list of threats to the cultivation of small fruits. «In the southwest of Alentejo, for example, we are already experiencing the effects of reduced availability of water, and in North Africa, California or Australia, we feel the same problem, which mainly affects small fruits in substrate (…) it is a challenge difficult and everyone in the line should do more to better manage water», appealed the expert. The fluctuation in the availability of labor, with a tendency towards scarcity and an increase in its cost, is another of the great challenges facing all producing regions.
This is, however, a row with a promising future driven by consumption growth. Convenience, high nutritional density and the potential for high fruit flavor and quality are attributes that align small fruits with consumer preferences. A study by the US Highbush Blueberry Council, cited by Marta Batista, estimates that world consumption of small fruits will reach approximately cerca17 billion lb (pounds, English measure) in 2024, compared to the 8,000 million lb forecast for 2022. Blueberry consumption it may even triple in the coming years, with an exponential increase in the consumption of blackberries and fram-
mainly in Asian markets.
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