Tenterfield key to blueberry boom

BLUEBERRIES are big business in NSW and Tenterfield is hopeful of latching onto the market with Mountain Blue Farms looking to expand into the town.

An aerial view of the Mountain Blue farm operation at Tabulam.

An aerial view of the Mountain Blue farm operation at Tabulam.

Today, the blueberry industry’s worth exceeds well over $100 million locally in retail sales and demand is booming.

In a few weeks action will hit full throttle on the Tabulam blueberry farm where owner, Ridley Bell, expects they’ll have anywhere between 300-400 people active on the farm.

Mr Bell is hopeful of soon having year round production and believes Tenterfield may hold the key.

Rivals in the industry, the Costa fruit and vegetable empire, have achieved a 12 month production cycle with their operations in Tasmania offering up late season fruit.

Mountain Blue believes they can achieve a similar situation – just a lot closer to home.

Mr Bell said the company has a five-year plan and is exploring the potential of purchasing property in Tenterfield to achieve his desire of longer production.

“I think two years from now it might be a possibility.

“We’re not sure yet – there is still a fair bit to trial before investing,” he said.

The Tabulam venture was a massive undertaking, involving the purchase of water rights, substantial earthworks, dam building, irrigation and construction of a modest packing shed.

From 2016 the Tabulam farm is expected to yield in excess of 750,000kg of fruit per season, or 450,000 trays.

Thirty percent of that is likely to end up in the export markets.

Mr Bell said it’s still early days for a prospective Tenterfield operation.

However, they are already getting plants ready for the potential venture and Mr Bell is confident that Tenterfield offers an opportunity to expand while remaining close to his Tabulam and Lismore farms.

“I’ve been to Tasmania on a number of occasions looking but it’s too far away.

“(Tenterfield) it’s an area that hasn’t previously been looked at seriously,” he said.

If the plan comes to fruition Mr Bell believes it could really stimulate the town’s economy and jobs market.

“It’s certainly stimulated everything down here,” he said.

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