Blueberries were first cultivated in the United States by Elizabeth Coleman White in the South Jersey village of Whitesbog.
Maine produces 25% of all blueberries in North America, making it the largest producer in the world. Maine’s 24,291 hectares (FAO figures) [60,023 acres] of blueberry were propagated from native plants that occur naturally in the understorey of its coastal forests. The Maine crop requires about 50,000 beehives for pollination, with most of the hives being trucked in from other states for that purpose. Many towns in Maine lay claim to being the blueberry capital and several festivals are centered around the blueberry. The wild blueberry is the official fruit of Maine and is often as much a symbol of Maine as the lobster.
Quebec has the largest quantity of wild blueberry production, coming especially from the regions of Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean and Côte-Nord which provide 40% of Quebec’s total provincial production. Quebec has added 28,717 hectares in blueberry farms since 2001.
Nova Scotia, also a major producer of wild blueberries, recognizes the blueberry as its official provincial berry. The town of Oxford, Nova Scotia is known as the Wild Blueberry Capital of Canada. New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island are other Canadian provinces with major wild blueberry farming.
Significant production of highbush blueberries occurs in Oregon, Washington, British Columbia, Michigan, New Jersey and North Carolina. California is rapidly increasing plantings of southern highbush varieties originating from the University of Florida and North Carolina State University. Southern highbush berries are now also cultivated in the Mediterranean regions of Europe.
Highbush blueberries were first introduced to Germany and the Netherlands in the 1930s and have since spread to Poland, Italy and other countries of Europe (Nauman, 1993).
“[M]any growers in France, Austria, and Italy realized too that it pays to cultivate highbush blueberries, and that good economic gain can be obtained,” according to an industry researcher. “Even in Belgium and Norway, some very promising trials with special methods of blueberry cultivation resulted in a limited commercial production which is very successful. … Except in the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Spain, a blueberry industry is developing in all regions where the production is possible due to the climatic and edaphic conditions …” (Nauman, 1993).
In the Southern hemisphere, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, New Zealand, and Australia now export blueberries. South Africa exports them to Europe.
Blueberries were first introduced to Australia in the 1950s, but the effort was unsuccessful. “In the early 1970s David Jones from the Victorian Department of Agriculture imported seed from the U.S. and a selection trial was started. This work was continued by Ridley Bell” who imported more American varieties. In the mid-1970s the Australian Blueberry Growers Association (ABGA) was formed. (Clayton-Greene)
By the early 1980s, the blueberry industry was started in New Zealand and is still growing. (BNZ, n.d)
The industry is even newer in Argentina: “Argentine blueberry production has increased over the last three years with planted area up to 400 percent,” according to a 2005 report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. But that increase comes from a tiny base of 400 hectares in 2001 (to 1,600 hectares in 2004). The industry is new in the country and farmers are still learning the business. “Argentine blueberry production has thrived in three different regions: the province of Entre Rios in Northeastern Argentina, the province of Buenos Aires, near the country’s capital city Buenos Aires, and the southern Patagonian valleys,” according to the report. (Gain, 2005)
Chile is the biggest producer in South America and the largest exporter to the northern hemisphere, with an estimated surface of 6,800 hectares (as of 2007). Introduction of the first plants started in the early 80s and production started in the late 80s in the southern part of the country. Today production ranges from Copiapó in the north to Puerto Montt in the south, which allows the country to offer blueberries from October till late March. The main production area today is the Bio Bio region. Production has evolved rapidly in the last decade, becoming the 4th most important fruit exported in value terms. Fresh market blueberries are exported mainly to North America (80%) followed by Europe (18%). Information from the Fruit Export Association (ASOEX, 2007), Chile exported in 2007 more than 21 thousand MT of fresh blueberries and more than 1,000 MT of frozen product. Most of the production comes from the highbush type, but several rabbiteye blueberries are grown in the country as well. Information taken from the Chilean Fruit Producers Federation (FEDEFRUTA, 2007) and their Blueberry Committee, stands that there are over 800 blueberry producers with surfaces ranging from 50 to 200 hectares.