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USHBC and Pagoda Celebrate Arrival of Fresh US Blueberries in China

July 23, 2021

On July 23, the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council teamed up with Pagoda, a well-known nationwide chain of fruit shops in China, to celebrate the first ever official promotion of fresh U.S. blueberries in the China market, which comes in the wake of the product being granted market access by China’s General Administration of Customs in 2020. The celebration coincided with the arrival of the first 2021 shipment of fresh U.S. blueberries to China. The event, held at a Pagoda store in Shenzhen, was attended by several Chinese media outlets, as well as passersby drawn in by the bold blue decorations.

The event also featured the attendance of representatives of the USDA Agricultural Trade Office in Guangzhou and senior Pagoda executives. Of course, the real star attendee was the berries themselves, freshly air freighted in from Oregon, which won many admirers among the participants. Those blueberries sampled on site by Produce Report were notable for their large size, sweet taste and exceptional flavor.

The United States leads the world in blueberry output, with growers there producing an estimated 149,600 metric tons of fresh blueberries in 2020 in addition to 136,200 tons of processed blueberries. To gain access to the China market, the U.S. government and the USHBC worked together with Chinese customs authorities to develop export phytosanitary protocols for fresh blueberries, a process that required years of patient legwork. The breakthrough came in May 2020 when fresh U.S. blueberries received final approval for import into China from the General Administration of Customs.

“I’m excited and honored to join the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council, our great friends at Pagoda, and consumers here in Shenzhen today to celebrate this inaugural promotion of USA blueberries to China,” said Lindsay Malecha, deputy director of the USDA Agricultural Trade Office in Guangzhou. “It highlights the collaborative work between our countries that benefits U.S. blueberry farmers and makes it possible for distinguishing Chinese consumers here and across China to enjoy delicious U.S. blueberries for years to come.”

“Opening the Chinese market was a major milestone for the U.S. highbush blueberry industry last year, and we are excited to celebrate the successful arrival of USA fresh blueberries in China this season,” said Alicia Adler, vice president for global business development at the USHBC. “On behalf of the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council, I would like to acknowledge the hard work and dedication of the growers exporting to China this year, and express gratitude to the importers and retailers in China for their commitment to growing blueberry demand.”

The blueberries in the three-pallet shipment were grown by Norris Farms in Oregon’s Umpqua River Valley and supplied by Superfresh Growers of Washington State.

“The microclimate in the Umpqua River Valley yields delicious, large, high-quality blueberries over a long season,” said Jeff Webb, director of international business development at Superfresh Growers. “As a fifth-generation family-owned company, we are delighted that our blueberry program is supplied by a family farm with a multi-generational legacy spanning nearly 50 years. We believe that this joint depth of experience, along with our respective family-owned values and business practices, will shine through to consumers in China when they taste our U.S. blueberries.”

With over 4,700 stores across China, Pagoda, which imported the shipment as well as serving as the sole retailer, is China’s largest chain of fruit shops. Specialist fruit shops are an important sales channel for fresh fruit in China, including among high-end consumers, making Pagoda well suited to marketing fresh U.S. blueberries in China. The berries in this shipment were specially selected to match the demand of Pagoda’s customers for large and sweet berries. They will be sold in a limited number of Pagoda stores in the Pearl River and Yangtze River deltas as a premium-grade product due to their size and sweetness level.

“Thank you to the Agricultural Trade Office of the U.S. Consulate General in Guangzhou, the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council, and other partners for cooperating with Pagoda,” said Zhang Wangbo, general manager of the Pagoda Group’s Commodity Center. “Pagoda is very honored to be the first company to promote fresh American blueberries to Chinese consumers. We will leverage Pagoda’s strong brand and sales channels to promote these blueberries so that more Chinese consumers can understand, taste and fall in love with USA blueberries. Through our cooperation with hundreds of suppliers around the world, we have brought delicious new fruits to more and more consumers in China — a trend we hope to continue in the future through cooperation with new high-quality suppliers.”

Images: USHBC/Pagoda

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