BLUEBERRIES: Could Be Agritourist Attraction In The Philiippines

BLUEBERRIES: Could Be Agritourist Attraction In The Philiippines
BLUEBERRIES: Could Be Agritourist Attraction In The Philiippines
FRESHLY PICKED Blueberries at the Sheipa Leisure Farm, Hsinchu, Taiwan

Here’s one good idea that an investor in the highlands, say Benguet, can  possibly consider. Perhaps, Gov. Nestor Fongwan who, we know, is interested in developing agritourism would be interested to help.

The idea is to put up a leisure farm that grows blueberries as the major crop in combination with some other suitable crops that will make the project economically viable.

This idea came to us after visiting the Sheipa Leisure Farm in the Yemakan Mountain in Hsinchu, Taiwan, located literally above the clouds at 1,923 meters above sea level. The farm grows organic blueberries and other exotic fruits like kiwi, cherries, plums, pears and persimmons.

We thought of the idea because several years back, an American agribusiness assistance program had a small blueberry planting trial in Benguet and blueberries did grow and bear fruit that time. However, we have not heard of any commercial planting of the same since then.

BLUEBERRIES: Could Be Agritourist Attraction In The Philiippines
IMMATURE Blueberry fruits coming in clusters.

Sheipa Leisure Farm is a well-developed agritourist destination most famous for its organic blueberries. It is said to be the only commercial blueberry grower in Taiwan. The lure of picking and eating fresh blueberries is attracting many visitors, young and not-so-young from the local population as well as overseas.

BLUEBERRIES: Could Be Agritourist Attraction In The Philiippines
LILY YEH, Sheipa Leisure Farm supervisor, with two cups of freshly picked blueberries.

Not far from the lodging houses with excellent amenities are greenhouses where blueberries are grown. These are where the visitors experience the joy of picking and eating fresh blueberries that they themselves harvested. Each in-house guest who pays NT$3,000  (P4,800) a night is given three minutes to pick as many berries as he can in that short period. Lily Yeh, farm supervisor, says that they can only give that short period to each guest, otherwise the other guests will not have enough berries to pick. The harvest season is July to September although there are some that ripen as early as June.

BLUEBERRIES: Could Be Agritourist Attraction In The Philiippines
MAKING BLUEBERRY VINEGAR: A Do-It-Yourself recreational activity.

Aside from the three-minute blueberry picking, the guest enjoys breakfast, lunch, dinner, afternoon tea and a do-it-yourself recreational activity. One DIY that our group enjoyed was making blueberry vinegar after dinner. The vinegar is healthful to drink.

Sheipa Leisure Farm devotes just 7,000 square meters to blueberries. Last year, it harvested 3,000 kilos. Some were sold fresh right on the farm while others were frozen or were processed into wine, vinegar, juice, jam and for making cookies and cakes.

Fresh berries command a high price. One hundred grams fetch NT$130 or P208 in Philippine money. That’s a whopping P2,080 per kilo!  Blueberry wine is P960 per 400 ml bottle. Vinegar is P640 per 400 ml bottle; jam is P240 per 200 grams; P480 for 420 grams juice, P608 per 300 grams.

BLUEBERRIES: Could Be Agritourist Attraction In The Philiippines
LILY YEH and ZAC B. SARIAN with their harvest of ripe blueberries inside the greenhouse of Sheipa Leisure Farm, June 24, 2015.

The next step for the Filipino entrepreneur would be to look for the source of planting materials. It also means looking for production guide. One should gather as many information as possible about growing blueberries. Experimental plantings could be undertaken by university agronomists as well as well-focused private individuals. Blueberries could be an added attraction to strawberry projects. This crop could make agritourism more fun and profitable in the Philippines.

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