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Fresh Flavors Take Flight: Zhiguan Blueberries From Yunnan Soar to Japan

April 25, 2024

On April 14, a refrigerated truck loaded with fresh blueberries departed from the Pengsheng Yunnan Zhiguan Blueberry Planting Base, heading to the airport. After a brief layover in Fuzhou, the blueberries landed in Tokyo. This marked Pengsheng’s first trial of Zhiguan (“crown of branches”) blueberries in the Japanese market and also the first shipment of fresh Yunnanese blueberries to Japan.

It took just 20 hours for the first batch of Zhiguan blueberries to arrive in Tokyo, where they successfully passed plant quarantine inspection by the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries as well as pesticide residue testing by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare. After customs clearance, they were transported to the Ota Market in Tokyo, Japan’s largest wholesale fruit market. The blueberries quickly sold out, with positive market feedback and distributors noting that the freshness and quality of the blueberries were excellent.

According to Pengsheng, the company successfully obtained GlobalG.A.P. and ISO 22000 food safety management system certifications last year in order to bolster its efforts to tap into overseas markets. Pengsheng also collaborated with its export partner Zhangzhou Dexing to proactively explore the needs of Japanese customers and make sufficient preparations for cooperation with Japanese importers.

Prior to testing the Japanese market, Zhiguan blueberries already successfully entered the Hong Kong market last year, followed by the first shipment to Thailand in February of this year. Pengsheng plans to further expand into Japanese and Southeast Asian markets in the future, with an expected total export volume of around 50 metric tons within 1–2 years. During the market testing phase, air transport will remain the primary shipping method. In the future, however, the intention is to gradually transition to large-scale sea shipping, aiming to achieve weekly deliveries after gradually establishing a foothold in nearby markets.

The reason behind Pengsheng’s choice to enter the stringent Japanese market lies in the company’s confidence in the quality of its products. Zhiguan blueberries are grown in greenhouses using substrate cultivation techniques. Throughout the entire growth cycle, professional growers utilize specialized equipment to precisely monitor and control water and fertilizer usage and conduct pest management. Such meticulous crop management ensures the healthy growth of the blueberries throughout the whole production process, while continuously improving the taste and quality of the fruit.

After maturation, Zhiguan blueberries are handpicked by workers wearing finger cots and packed into boxes, ensuring maximum integrity of the fruit. Handpicking also serves as the first stage of size selection, followed by initial quality assessment by on-site quality inspectors. The harvested blueberries are then promptly sent to pre-cooling centers in packaging rooms to rapidly reduce their core temperature, thus extending the shelf life of the fruit.

After the first pre-cooling stage, the blueberries are transferred to processing rooms, where packaging workers complete the second stage of size selection and quality inspection according to strict standards while removing any substandard fruits. After weighing and packing, the blueberries then undergo a third quality inspection step in the warehouse prior to shipping. Upon completing these three stages of quality selection, the fruits enter the finished product warehouse for secondary pre-cooling and are shipped to the market the very next day. The high quality standards implemented for Zhiguan blueberries are applied to not only exported products but also those sold on the domestic market.

To date, Zhiguan blueberries are grown on approximately 400 hectares at dedicated planting bases in the provinces of Yunnan, Liaoning, Shandong and Sichuan as well as other regions, with a total global planting area of about 1,350 hectares. Through coordination between both domestic and international production areas, a year-round stable supply has now been achieved for Zhiguan blueberries, thus providing consumers in China and elsewhere with fresh, high-quality blueberries throughout the year.

Images: Shanghai Pengsheng Industrial Co. Ltd.

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