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ISSN : 1225-8504(Print)
ISSN : 2287-8165(Online)
Journal of the Korean Society of International Agriculture Vol.35 No.4 pp.266-270

Current Status and Prospects of Small Berry Fruit Production in the Republic of Korea

Ho-Jin Seo, Hye-Gyoung Yoo, Kyeong-Bok Ma, SeongSig Hong, Byulhana Lee†
Pear Research Institute, National Institute of Horticultural & Herbal Science, Naju, 58216, Republic of Korea
Corresponding author (Phone) +82-61-330-1581 (E-mail)
October 11, 2023 November 9, 2023 November 9, 2023


Aligned with the recent shift in fruit consumption trends, there is a growing increase in the cultivation of these fruits. Thus, various types of small fruits, including blueberries, have recently been introduced and cultivated in Korea. According to the data, there has been a notable uptick in blueberry farming, in stark contrast to the decline in cultivation of black raspberries, black chokeberries, and blackcurrants. New varieties of blueberries continue to be introduced and cultivated, aligning with the recent consumption trends and are expected to be consistently cultivated in the future. Despite the decrease in the other berries, health benefits associated with all berries have ignited growing consumer interest, resulting in domestic and international market expansion. In conclusion, this research underscores the importance of identifying plant varieties that are well-suited to Korea's climatic conditions, validating efficient cultivation strategies, and establishing robust distribution networks to foster sustainable development in the berry industry.

국내 소장과류 재배 현황 및 전망

서호진, 유혜경, 마경복, 홍성식, 이별하나†
국립원예특작과학원 배연구소



    The ‘berry’ refers to a group of fruits with thin skin and juicy flesh, commonly known as sap fruits (berry fruits). These fruits are typically borne by deciduous fruit trees, and they are known to start bearing fruit 1 to 2 years after being planted, with relatively easy harvesting. Also, they can be cultivated in small areas, making them suitable for home orchards and gardens as well.

    Recently, there has been a shift in the consumption trend of fruits towards a preference for fruits that are easy to consume without peeling, while also seeking functional benefits. The consumption of various berries such as blueberries and small fruits is increasing. Small fruits contain a large amount of phenol compounds such as flavonoids and anthocyanins (Kim et al., 2019; Kylli et al., 2011;Lee et al., 2021), in particular, anthocyanins are abundantly present in fruits and vegetables as natural pigments and possess strong antioxidant properties. Other phenolic compounds are known to be effective in anticancer, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and anti-diabetes (Battino et al., 2009;Tabart et al., 2012;Wang et al., 2017;Sidor and Gramza-Michalowska, 2019). As the functionality of small fruits becomes known, their consumption is expanding worldwide. In Korea as well, there is a continuous increase in consumer interest, leading to the development of related industries and an expansion in cultivation areas. Several berry varieties, including blueberries (Vaccinium corymbosum), black raspberries (Rubus spp.), black chokeberries (Aronia melanocarpa), black currants (Ribes nigrum), and acai berries (Euterpe oleracea Mart), have been introduced and cultivated domestically. In this study, we reported on the current cultivation status and the latest market information for these berries in Korea.


    1. Blueberry

    Blueberries gained global popularity and saw a sharp increase in demand after being confidently named one of the top 10 superfoods by Time in 2011. Since then, the cultivation and demand for blueberries have been on the rise globally, including in the Asian region (Sawant et al., 2023). The domestic cultivation area in South Korea, slightly decreased after the closure support program in 2016, and as of 2022, it stands at 3,326 hectares (Fig. 1.; Agrix, 2023). However, there has been a continuous increase in the number of small-scale farms, with less than 0.1 hectares, due to factors such as rural resettlement or returning to rural areas. Among domestic fruit cultivation areas, it ranks seventh following apple, pear, grape, peach, mandarin, sweet persimmon, and plum. Blueberry cultivars are divided into five main categories according to chilling requirement and tree height (Ghosh et al., 2018): southern highbush, northern highbush, half-high [a hybrid of highbush (V. corymbosum L.) and lowbush blueberries], rabbiteye (V. ashei Reade) and lowbush (V. angustifolium Ait.) blueberries (Leisner et al., 2017). In Korea, four categories are cultivated except for lowbush. According to a survey conducted among 600 farming households, the distribution of cultivation area by variety was as follows (Fig.2.): Northern highbush (57.2%) > Southern highbush (35.2) > Half highbush (6.8) > Rabbiteye (0.8). Among the varieties, ‘Duke’ has the largest cultivation area, and there are several varieties belonging to the Northern highbush category such as ‘Draper’, ‘Bluecrop’, ‘Legacy’, and ‘Brigitta’. However, there have been very few new or increasing varieties introduced. Furthermore, there is a significant renewal occurring with the Southern highbush variety, known for its superior fruit quality. Cultivation of varieties like ‘Suziblue’, ‘Scintilla’, ‘Newhanover’, and ‘Sweetcrisp’ has been increasing. The global blueberry market was valued at $8.3 billion in 2021 and is projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 3.5% until 2030, with an expected increase in consumption (Index box data). Blueberries, which offer convenience, taste, and functionality, are anticipated to experience growing demand domestically for the foreseeable future.

    2. Black raspberry

    Black raspberry, also known as “bokbunja” in South Korea, was introduced and cultivated alongside North American species in the late 1960s in the Gochang area of Jeollabuk-do province. Its appearance is closely reminiscent of blackberries. As of 2022, the cultivation area is approximately 1,002 hectares, which is about half the size compared to 2,191 hectares in 2016 (Fig.3.; Agrix, 2023). Unlike native black raspberries, the North American species are less tolerant to cold climates, thus, they are primarily cultivated in the Jeolla-do (Particularly, Jeollabuk-do accounts for the majority) and Gyeongnam regions, accounting for about 80% of domestic production. Native black raspberries grow naturally throughout South Korea, making nationwide cultivation possible. The production of black raspberries is highest in the fourth year, after which yields sharply decline with increasing age, accompanied by a higher mortality rate. The replanting of black raspberries in the same cultivation area leads to continuous cropping injury due to excess inorganic components, such as available phosphate and K+ (Lee et al., 2010). Additionally, the impact of climate change has resulted in the occurrence of wilt (fusarium) and anthracnose, leading to a decrease in production and making cultivation increasingly challenging (Kim, 2023;Park, 2023). Once cultivated, it could be harvested for an average of 6-7 years. However, the increased mortality rate within 1-2 years after replanting due to diseases has led to a shorter seedling renewal cycle, posing a problem. Consequently, many growers have opted to switch to alternative crops (Kim, 2022). On the other hand, the demand for black raspberries is on the rise. freeze-dried powder of native black raspberries has gained recognition for its functional properties related to antioxidant activity (Lee et al., 2021;Choi et al., 2022), particularly its role in blood pressure (due to ellagic acid) regulation (Jeong et al., 2014;Lee et al., 2014). It has been registered as an individually-recognized raw material. As a result, the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, along with the Korea Food Promotion Institute, plans to establish a production and cooperation system with registered producing areas. This aims to supply functional food ingredients and promote consumption, ultimately fostering the activation of cultivation farms.

    3. Black chokeberry

    Aronia, also known as black chokeberry, is a perennial shrub of the Rosaceae family (Ochmian et al., 2012). Once garnered attention as the “King's Fruit”. However, it faced a price collapse due to excessive production. In 2013, the cultivation area for aronia was only 151 hectares. Yet, with the synergy of local government support programs and its high cultivation convenience, the region rapidly expanded, reaching 1,802 hectares in 2016 (about 12 times the previous size, fig.4.). It peaked at 4,311 hectares in 2019 and has since maintained a cultivation area of 3,193 hectares as of 2022 (Agrix, 2023). During the period of rapid increase in aronia cultivation and production, the media consistently reported on its status as a superfood. It highlighted aronia's anthocyanin content and antioxidant effects, which are 4 to 5 times higher than those of blueberries and acai berries. Like most fruit trees, aronia takes 4 to 5 years from planting to harvest. The seedlings planted with dreams in 2013 began bearing fruit around 2018. However, the price of fresh aronia peaked at 10,000 KRW/kg in 2014 but rapidly dropped to 1,000 - 2,000 KRW/kg in 2018 due to oversupply. Due to its tart and bitter taste, aronia is challenging to consume as fresh fruit and is primarily used in processed forms such as powder and concentrated extracts. The increase in imports of aronia powder and concentrates from Poland, propelled by the full implementation of the Korea-EU Free Trade Agreement in 2016, may have played a role in the decline of domestic demand. However, the decrease in demand was primarily attributable to the fact that it didn’t align with consumer preferences on a fundamental level.

    4. Blackcurrant

    Blackcurrant is a functional fruit that thrives in cool climates. As of 2022, the cultivation area for blackcurrants is approximately 55 ha (Fig. 5.), with the major cultivation occurring in Jeollabuk-do (17.6 ha) and Gangwon-do (13.2 ha) regions (Agrix, 2023). The fruits are tart and juicy, making them suitable for processing into jams, jellies, and juices rather than for consuming fresh. Blackcurrant seeds are used for oil production. Blackcurrants were originally known as "cassis berries," and both the fruits and leaves are edible.

    5. Acai berry

    Acai berry is the fruit of a palm tree, which grows in the tropical rainforests of the Brazilian Amazon region. It is often referred to as the "tree of life fruit" and shares a similar appearance to blueberries. It contains quite a lot of anthocyanin and polyphenolic compounds (Kang et al., 2017). As of 2022, it occupies a cultivation area of approximately 31 hectares (Fig. 6.; Agrix, 2023). Despite its excellent functional properties, the low productivity caused by the seeds, which account for 80-90% of the fruit, makes it challenging to ensure profitability in cultivation. Additionally, a disadvantage of acai berries is their rapid spoilage after harvesting, requiring freezing, drying and/or processing (Nagata et al., 2020). These factors indicate that the cultivation area is unlikely to expand further.


    The cultivation area for the mentioned 5 types of small berry fruits was a total of 7,607 ha as of 2022, with blueberries accounting for 3,326 ha, followed by black chokeberries with 3,193 ha, making up the majority of the area. In addition to acai berries, various other red to purple-colored berries with names like gooseberry (Sawant et al., 2022), raspberry, maqui berry, bayberry, elderberry, and honeyberry are being introduced and cultivated in South Korea. While it is encouraging to see the interest and demand for these exotic berries, the introduction and establishment of new species require careful examination under various environmental conditions. Breeding programs designed for fruits like blueberries can help overcome production challenges for these new fruits. Furthermore, for those considering it as a livelihood, a thorough assessment of the economic feasibility, cultivation potential, and consumption outlook for the crop should be conducted.

    적 요

    한국에 다양한 소과류가 도입되어 재배되고 있고, 그 중 통 계적으로 재배면적과 농가수 집계 가능한 품목은 블루베리, 복 분자, 아로니아, 블랙커런트, 아사이베리이다.

    5품목 전체 재배면적은 7.607 ha로 그 중 블루베리 3,326 ha, 아로니아 3,193 ha로 2품목이 대부분을 차지하고 있 으며 특히, 블루베리는 건강기능성에 대한 인식 등 최근 소비 트렌트와 부합해 수요가 증가하고 있다.

    생과로 섭취되기보다 가공용으로 사용이 많은 복분자, 블랙 커런트, 아로니아의 재배면적은 꾸준히 감소하는 추세이다.

    그 외에도 건강기능성이 알려진 구즈베리, 라즈베리, 마키베 리, 허니베리 등 붉은색~보라색을 띄는 여러 종류의 소장과류 가 도입되어 소규모 재배가 시도되고 있다.

    그러나 다양한 소과류의 무조건적 도입 및 재배에 앞서 국내 재배 환경에 대한 적응성과 시장성 등을 충분히 고려 해야 할 것이다.


    This study was supported by the Research Program for Horticultural Science & Technology Development, National Institute of Horticultural and Herbal Science, Rural Development Administration, Republic of Korea (Project No. PJ01358203).



    Cultivation area and number of farmhouses of blueberries in Republic of Korea from 2016 to 2022.


    Distribution of the cultivation area by the variety line. NHB, Northern highbush; SHB, Southern highbush; HH, half highbush; RE, Rabbiteye.


    Cultivation area and number of farmhouses of black raspberry in the Republic of Korea from 2016 to 2022.


    Cultivation area and number of farmhouses of black chokeberry in the Republic of Korea from 2016 to 2022.


    Cultivation area and number of farmhouses of blackcurrant in the Republic of Korea from 2016 to 2022.


    Cultivation area and number of farmhouses of Acai berry in Republic of Korea from 2016 to 2022.



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