Just the Berries | COUNTRY CALENDAR | TV ONE | tvnz.co.nz [an error occurred while processing this directive]
Just the Berries
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This episode screened May 19, 2007.

'Just the Berries'

Canterbury black currant grower Murray Stephens says the recent court case involving Ribena fruit juice won't dent increasing overseas demand for the crop.

Murray Stevens, who grows 64 hectares of black currants at Irwell, south-west of Christchurch, features on this week's Country Calendar.

He says the high levels of anti-oxidants in black currants means they are attracting more and more interest overseas - especially in Japan, where their health-giving properties are highly sought-after.  

GlaxoSmithKline was fined over $200,000 in March when it admitted making false claims about the level of vitamin C in its popular Ribena black currant drink.

Murray Stevens says black currants do have very high levels of vitamin C - but all types of fruit and berries have to be carefully processed if they're to retain their vitamins till they reach the consumer.

But he says vitamin C is not as important as other factors that he is confident will guarantee the industry's future.  Black currants are a "super-fruit" that are poised to become the next big thing in the rapidly growing international nutraceutical or "functional food" industry, he says.

New Zealand berries have very high levels of anthocyanins - the substance which gives them their purple/black colour and which contain health-giving antioxidants.

Murray, who now farms in partnership with his son Stuart, has been growing black currants for nearly thirty years.  In that time he's seen the industry go on a roller coaster ride.  Prices have often fluctuated wildly and he says the industry is strong enough to ride out the Ribena controversy.

New Zealand produces around 9000 tonnes of black currants each year, which is around three per cent of world production.  Most is turned into juice but more and more products are being developed, ranging from jams and fruit bars to health supplements.

Country Calendar filmed on the Stephens' property several times between September and January to see the berries ripening and being harvested - and the crew also filmed a bus-load of Japanese visiting the farm as part of a promotion to increase sales in the Japanese market.

Planting, tending and harvesting the black currants and grass seed varieties on the Stephens' property involves a wide range of machinery.  To see some of the machines they use watch the exclusive video link above.

To find out more about the New Zealand black currant industry click here.


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