Blueberries have been quietly making a name for themselves. The value of global blueberry exports is on a steady rise and is projected to reach nearly $3 billion by 2025, as reported by the USDA. The global production of blueberries has mirrored the upward trend in exports. From 2010 to 2019, production witnessed a remarkable surge, more than doubling. High demand is followed by frequent transit damages to these berries. This article discusses how to avoid transit risks and ensure blueberries arrive at destinations in sound condition.
Blueberries are a delicate fruit with a skin covered in a waxy bloom, giving them that enticing light blue appearance. To be deemed high quality, they should be free of injury, decay, and sunscald, fully blue in color (with minimal red at the stem end) and have that unmistakable turgid feel. They are non-climacteric, meaning their flavor doesn’t improve after harvest, so timing is key.
One of the main postharvest concerns is grey mold rot, especially after wet seasons. It can thrive even at low temperatures, making proper handling and storage critical.
To preserve the market quality and suppress decay development, blueberries should be rapidly pre-cooled to near 0°C and maintained at that temperature. Any hint of visible decay at harvest significantly diminishes their storage potential, emphasizing the need for prompt marketing.
Proper packaging, film caps, and maintaining 90-95% relative humidity are essential to keep moisture losses at 2-3% or less during storage and marketing. Handling should be minimized to avoid damaging the bloom, and temperatures above 4.5°C can lead to undesirable skin texture.
While blueberries are not known to be chilling sensitive, freezing damage can occur at temperatures around -1.5°C to -2.0°C over extended periods. Controlled atmospheres can retard breakdown and decay but carry the risk of off-flavors. The use of sealed poly-liners can extend storage life but sometimes results in off-flavored fruit after prolonged storage.
When it comes to shipping, blueberries can be included in mixed loads, but they must be kept cold to maintain their quality. Be cautious with oxygen levels below 2%, which can cause off-flavors, and carbon dioxide levels above 20%, which may lead to skin browning and off-flavors.
Storage disorders like Alternaria fruit rot, Anthracnose fruit rot, and others should be watched for, with an optimum carrying temperature of 0°C. Humidity levels should be maintained at 90 to 95%, and proper ventilation is crucial for container storage.
The blueberry export industry is undeniably on the rise, with bright prospects for the future. However, successful blueberry exports require meticulous handling, cooling, and storage to maintain quality and prevent losses.
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