Abu Dhabi: Some of the best varieties of the superfruit, blueberries, will be grown in the UAE soon.
An agreement signed between Elite Agro LLC and Mountain Blue Orchards PTY Ltd, based in Australia, will see the introduction of blueberries grown and supplied by Mountain Blue Orchards to UAE farms first before branching out to other countries in the Middle East, according to a press releases yesterday.
Elite Agro, a leading Abu Dhabi producer and distributor of fresh vegetables and fruits, has secured a license for the exclusive rights to cultivate varieties of blueberry in the Middle East.
“Blueberries are a superfruit, rich in antioxidants which are important for fighting many diseases. We are very proud and excited to secure the rights to grow this important and valuable crop” said Saeed Al Bahri, cluster managing director at Elite Agro, after the signing of the agreement in Berlin.
Globally, the demand for blueberries continues to increase and this is also the case in the Middle East where all blueberries are currently flown in from countries as far away as Mexico.
According to Euromonitor, UAE consumers ate 1,200 tonnes of blueberries in 2014. There was a 7.6 per cent market growth between 2014 and 2015. Currently, UAE is the largest consumer of blueberries per capita in the Middle East, and the turn towards healthy living has likely contributed to the increase in consumption.
Super and healthy foods are a part of healthy change in lifestyle in the UAE. In recent years, the incidence of diabetes and heart-related diseases have surged, mainly due to sedentary lifestyles and high-caloric intake. However, as consumers become more aware of the choices available in the market, and turn to fitness and health consciousness, superfoods are seen as an important resource.
“Elite Agro LLC will become one of the top blueberry growers in the world,’ said Al Bahri. “We already grow them on a large area in Morocco and supply to countries in Northern Europe through a well-known international brand. We also have 100 hectares planted in Serbia. With the increased demand for health-giving products like blueberries, we are committed to growing a product that consumers need.”
As the blueberry varieties are suited for a hotter climate, harvest is expected mid-late summer through to midwinter. By year four, when the plants are matured, they are expected to produce 36 tonnes per hectare.