In the context of the global industry of blueberry there is a lot of ignorance in some areas about their organisational reality, the state of their crops, their participation in markets, or the qualities of their fruit. This is the case in France, which we know has theFrench Union of producers of blueberries (SPMF), which currently brings together almost 30% of producers, and seeks to unite, organise and promote the sector with a view to strengthening the supply chain.
After a long period of very slow growth of the French crop blueberries, planting has accelerated somewhat in the last 2 years. Today, the cultivation of blueberry remains anecdotal, with just under 500 hectares planted and in production.
KNOWLEDGE, SOIL AND WORK
"Several barriers limit its development, first of all the lack of knowledge of this fruit and its cultivation in France. Then there is the agronomic factor, the quality of the soil and the possibility of irrigation. Finally, an important point is the scarcity of labour and its cost, which is much higher than in the rest of Europe," comments Côme Lapierre, SPMF's communications manager. The French manager tells us that there are only four large orchards of more than 30 hectares in the region and the vast majority of orchards are small structures of less than 5 hectares, geared towards direct or local sales.
The varieties planted are very diverse, mainly Duke, Draper and Bluecrop, and the vast majority of blueberries grown in France are Northern Highbush, but recently there have been some plantings of Rabbiteyes in the south. In addition, as the average temperature in the region increases, trials are being made with Southern Highbush. Many older varieties, such as Darrow, have been used for local markets or self-harvesting. In recent plantings, we constantly find Legacy, which has proven its reliability. Many varieties from US selections (Michigan and Oregon) are tried, but the orchards are too recent to identify the best ones.
"The orchard is traditionally planted at 3 x 1m in general. The recent trend is to densify 2.2m x 0.8m for the more extreme. For the past 2 years, projects have also been emerging on the ground, these will allow blueberries to be grown in some regions where the soil was not suitable," says the SPMF member.