The timing is coincidental, but on the heels of a governor's trade mission that included a stop in South Korea comes the announcement that Oregon will be the first state allowed to ship fresh blueberries into the Korean export market.
The announcement is viewed as a major development for one of the state's brightest agricultural commodities, and could lead to a sharp increase in blueberry export sales.
"This is great news for our blueberry industry and could give us a significant new market," says Oregon Department of Agriculture Director Katy Coba. "There is still work to be done, but we are poised to take advantage of being the first state to have a green light from South Korea for fresh blueberries."
For years, ODA has worked with USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and the state's blueberry industry in crafting a deal with South Korean food safety inspection officials to clear the hurdles that have kept fresh berries out of that market.
Earlier this season, APHIS announced an agreement that should allow Oregon to ship fresh blueberries to Korea during the 2012 season. Protocols still need to be settled, but the news is being welcomed by producers.
"This is a market that appears to be fairly untapped so far, so it's going to be a huge market opportunity, says Eric Pond, a blueberry producer from Jefferson, Ore., who chairs the Oregon Blueberry Commission.
Pond and ODA's Coda recently returned from South Korea – one of three stops on the governor's Asian trade mission.
As much as 500,000 pounds of fresh Oregon blueberries could be exported to South Korea next year, the industry estimates.
"Based on what I see right now, I think Korea will be a very active market for Oregon," says Bryan Ostlund, OBC administrator. "We still need to work out the tremendous number of provisions that will assure South Korea that the fruit we ship in is the absolute best quality and meets their standards."