(UPDATED COVERAGE, Nov. 17) As more good health news about blueberries continues to come out, production of the fruit continues to explode.

In 2008, about 607 million pounds were produced worldwide, said Mark Villata, executive director of the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council. 

So much so, some industry members are floating the idea of an international association charged with marketing blueberries worldwide.

UPDATED: International blueberry group proposed

In an effort led by the North American Blueberry Council, marketers are meeting to get producers from North And South America, Europe, Asia, South African and New Zealand on the same page on issues including health and production research, promotion, food safety and technology, Villata said.

Leading the negotiations on the possible formation of such a group is a steering committee made up of 11 representatives from the U.S., Chile, Uruguay, Argentina, Australia, England and South Africa. The committee hopes to add members from New Zealand and possibly Japan, China and Korea, Villata said.

“Though all growers and industry members would be eligible and encouraged to participate, each group would have just one voting member,” Villata said. “There would be two North American Blueberry Council positions on the board and one voting member each from the U.S. and Canada.”

Of the 607 million pounds produced in 2008, North America accounted for 416 million; South America 115 million; Europe 57 million; and all others 19 million.

Before the group is formed, consensus would be required in the selection of by-laws; funding sources; a host country for the first meeting; and the location and resources for registration and incorporation, Villata said.

The discussions come on the heels of the formation, this summer, of the Santiago-based Chilean Blueberry Committee, which is working with the Sonoma, Calif.-based Chilean Fresh Fruit Association on increasing sales during Chile's traditional November-April season.