United Exports has been reliably informed that the Dutch Customs Authority has intercepted and seized another shipment of fresh blueberries from South African grower Ross Berries (Pty) Ltd. The 40ft reefer shipping container containing a blueberry consignment of 16,6 tons was confiscated in terms of the European Union’s (EU) intellectual property, counterfeit and piracy regulations.

Ross Berries (Pty) Ltd, a Rossouw Farming Group company, was attempting to export the fruit in blatant disregard of the proprietary rights of United Exports, which holds the community plant variety rights of the OZblu® blueberry plants and fruit in the EU and across the world.

This is the second transgression of its kind after a shipment was seized on 27 October 2020 on the same grounds. The European Union Customs Authority has notified the authorities at all points of entry across the EU to monitor imports of South African blueberries into the EU to prevent the further infringement of United Exports’ intellectual property rights in relation to its OZblu® blueberry plants and fruit.

Civil claims are also pending both locally and abroad. Following the seizure of the first shipment, the Dutch Customs Authority has again brought proceedings against South African fruit exporter Freshworld (Pty) Ltd, the international shipper, and the Belgian customer to whom Ross Berries and Freshworld sold the fruit.

Role of the customs authority

The European Union Customs Authority recognises and protects plant-based intellectual property to safeguard the agriculture and downstream industries of the Netherlands and other agricultural economies in Europe and their trading partners. South Africa has similar plant-based intellectual property rights. The protection of plant-based intellectual property rights is a material component of the worldwide food supply chain.

United Exports’ OZblu® proprietary blueberries are a new, market-leading range of blueberry varieties and are sought after in Europe, the United Kingdom, North America and across the Middle East and Asia. Dave and Leasa Mazzardis of Australia in collaboration with United Exports’ have been developing the OZblu® proprietary blueberry varieties over nearly three decades. – Press release, United Exports