Ukraine boosting berries exports along with stable production - expert
KYIV. July 5 (Interfax-Ukraine) – Berries production in Ukraine in the past three years has stabilized at some 130,000 tonnes, and exports is growing, UkrAgroConsult Director General Serhiy Feofilov said at a press conference at Interfax-Ukraine on Tuesday.
"The export of berries in 2014 amounted to 21,500 tonnes, while in 2016 Ukraine delivered 44,700 tonnes to foreign markets. Frozen berries predominate in the structure of exports (blueberries, raspberries, cranberries and blackberries)," the expert said.
Feofilov said that Ukrainian producers of berries have expanded the geography of exports.
"If earlier the main markets were the EU countries, now the supplies to the Middle East and the UAE have started," he added.
The main obstacle to expanding sales in the EU retail networks is the high cost of a Global Gap certificate, which allows exporting fresh products.
According to Feofilov, the berry business remains one of the investment-attractive segments of the agrarian sector in Ukraine. The main reasons for this trend are high margins, growing demand on the domestic and foreign markets, favorable climate conditions and healthy eating trends.
Deputy Director for scientific work of the Institute of Horticulture of the National Academy of Agrarian Sciences, Oleksandr Yareschenko said at the press conference that currently there are about 25,000 hectares of berry plantations (households and berry farms) in Ukraine.
"The share of specialized farms, according to our estimates, is no more than 15,000 hectares. The strawberries remain number one, and it occupies about 45-50% of all plantings," Yareschenko said.
According to experts, this year the price trends in the berry market were significantly affected by unfavorable weather and climate conditions. A significant loss of harvest of berry crops has led to their shortage and growing prices.
Yareschenko said that early types of berries, in particular, strawberries suffered the most from the severe frosts.
"Due to the poor harvest of forest blueberry, its price went up 2.5-3 times in comparison with the previous year. Blueberry is one of the most stable in price among berry crops in Ukraine. The retail prices are in the range of UAH 250-300 per kg," he said.
Director of Brusviana LLC, a berry nursery (Zhytomyr region), Liliana Dmytriyeva said that one of the problems of berry industry is a lack of specialists.
"Unfortunately, Ukrainian universities do not train specialists who could be allowed to enter the garden and authorized for responsible work… Business owners themselves do not always understand how the final product should look like," she said.
Feofilov added that, despite many risks in berry business, investments are beginning to come from other sectors of the country's economy.
"We predict that in three or five years monopolization of storage and processing of berries will be seen. According to our observations, cooperation of small producers and concentration of production could happen." To remain competitive, small producers must switch to cooperation," the expert said.