By Aisha Noreen
The blackcurrant, a tiny tart berry belonging to the genus Ribes, is used to make jams, sauces, syrups, jellies, fruit drinks, syrups, candies, and liqueurs. Currently, 90% of the black currants are produced in Europe. Unfortunately, in the USA, the taste of this delicious fruit is almost forgotten because of the long period of restrictions, and hardly 0.1% of Americans have eaten one.
Blackcurrant cultivation, sale, and transport were banned in the USA by the federal government in 1911 to protect the white pine from blister rust fungal infection. The fungus must infect a Ribes species before returning to the white pines To complete its life cycle. So, researchers thought removing Ribes species from the fungal life cycle could protect pines, the backbone of the nation’s timber. Hence the federal government banned black and red currant cultivation in the USA.
Though in 1966, this federal ban was lifted, many states maintained their own bans to date. Most states lifted their bans by 2003, knowing that black currants can be grown safely at some distance from rust-immune varieties of white pines and the application of new fungicides. Black currants are now grown commercially in many states including, New York, Connecticut, Kentucky, Vermont, etc. However, this ban still remains in some states, while others require a permit to plant black currants anywhere in the state.
The Potential of Black Currant Business in the U.S.
In the late 19th century, some 7,400 acres of Ribes were in cultivation in North America. Only in New York, Ribes species were cultivated on around 2,700 acres. Unfortunately, due to the ban on Ribes species for more than 70 years, the cultivation declined to much extent.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, the total global production of Ribes in 2002 was over 750,000 tonnes. Poland, the U.K., Russia, and Scandinavia are among the primary producers of Ribes species. About 80% of the black currant crop is used to produce juice.
A UK-based company had a 4.7% rise in profits to $97.14 million in 2019 from blackcurrant drinks and had around 3.8 million consumers in 2020. In August 2018, the wholesale price of black currants was valued at 7.27 British pounds per kilogram. The fruit juice market in North America reached a value of US$ 34.3 Billion in 2020.
According to an estimation, more than 20,000 acres of black currant cultivation would be needed to apprehend 1% of the North American juice market. Hence, regardless of whether you target the USA alone or plan to jump into the global market, black currants are promising investments at hand.
List of States Where Black Currants are Banned
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey (Black currants are only allowed under a special permit)
- North Carolina
- Ohio (The European black currants are prohibited, only disease-resistant recognized varieties, e.g., “Consort” are allowed)
- Rhode Island
- Virginia (Non-disease resistant Black Currants prohibited)
- West Virginia
Cost of Black Currant Production
Black currants are easy to grow and give fruit in 2 or 3 years after plantation. According to an estimation in 2019 by the University of Kentucky, College of Agriculture, Food and Environment, the establishment costs for a one-fifth acre of currants and gooseberries planting are $3,860 for the first three years. In a full-production year, total costs per one-fifth acre were estimated around $1,800 to $1,900. If gooseberries and currants are marketed adequately, they have the potential for net returns in the $6,000 to $8,000 range per acre.
The demand for Black Currants
Strong consumer demand for fruit products and dietary supplements provides opportunities for black currant commercialization. Currants and gooseberries are excellent sources of vitamins A, B, and C (four times greater than those found in citrus fruit). These fruits are also a good source of vitamins E and K. Black currants have some of the highest values of anthocyanins, one of the most potent neuroprotective compounds.
In addition to the nutritional benefits, black currants have excellent antioxidant properties and have been used in traditional medicine practices for centuries to treat fever, inflammation, respiratory problems, infections, skin wounds, and other ailments. A recent study proved that black currants lower blood glucose.
In 2020, Spain imported more than 200 metric tons of black currants from the E.U. In 2020, New Zealand exported black currant worth $11.2 million in concentrate, frozen, and fruit preparation forms. There are more than 1000 black currant-related products listed on Amazon USA.
The current Production of Black Currants in the USA
At present, around 2,500 commercial acres are under cultivation of black currants and gooseberries in the USA. There are more than 500 blackcurrant farms in North America, including New York, Connecticut, Oregon, Washington, Wisconsin, British Columbia, Canada, etc. Most of these farms operate as a Limited Liability Company (LLC) and provide fresh, dried, and frozen black currants. Some also offer processed black currants in concentrate, dessert topping, chocolate, and syrup form.
So, in Short
The black currant industry is thriving in the European Union, with over 100 million pounds produced each year. With the availability of only 6% of that on American shelves, it’s clear there is a huge potential for growth in this niche market right here in the U.S. With flavorsome features and extraordinary health benefits, it looks like there is no stopping this fruit from making its way to multiple industries in the country soon.
About the Author
Aisha Noreen is the founder of MoneyAisle.com, a blog that provides entity registration solutions for small businesses. Aisha has been working in this field for over a decade and knows what it’s like to go through multiple challenges as an entrepreneur. She overcame these hurdles by experimenting with new ideas which have helped her develop a solid understanding of the “hows” and “whys” behind state compliance issues.