Blueberry Council Votes To Increase Assessments

In response to an unprecedented increase in blueberry production, the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council (USHBC) last month voted to raise growers’ assessment rate to fund its new market promotion initiative “BLUEprint 2015 — Building Demand to Meet Future Supply.” The recommendation presented to USDA for approval doubles the rate from the current 0.6¢ per pound ($12 per ton) to 1.2¢ per pound ($24 per ton).

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In just three years, North American highbush blueberry acreage grew 33%, from 71,000 acres in 2005 to more than 95,000 in 2007. Expanded acreage led to a record 407 million pounds produced in 2008, more than twice the level produced 10 years before (185 million pounds in 1998). As new acres mature and worldwide production grows, highbush blueberry supply is expected to exceed 1 billion pounds by 2015.

“In spite of the sagging economy, the future looks bright for our industry,” says USHBC Executive Director Mark Villata. “Consumers love blueberries and are aware of their health benefits, which has helped increase per capita consumption. But now, with rapidly increasing supply, we will have to make a concerted market promotion effort to double consumption by 2015. Dollars strategically invested in our “BLUEprint 2015” campaign will pay off in helping us maintain and grow a healthy industry.”

The proposed change will be published in the Federal Register with a 60-day comment period. The blueberry industry is encouraged to comment. Assuming acceptance later this year, the increased assessment will be applied to the 2010 crop and will allow the USHBC to more fully fund market promotion and advertising programs beginning in 2011. An annual assessment rate of 1.2¢ per pound will generate an estimated $4 million for promotional efforts.

Programs will target consumers, foodservice, food manufacturers, and export markets. There will also be increased support for blueberry health and nutrition research, as well as expanded educational efforts in the areas of food safety and good management practices to strengthen consumer confidence.

Source: U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council