16 Jul 2021

UKRAINE'S BLUEBERRIES : THE SECRETS OF GROWTH

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Ukraine is rapidly gaining momentum in the production and export of blueberries. According to official statistics at the beginning of 2021 there were about two thousand hectares of blueberries planted in Ukraine; according to unofficial statistics there were as many as three thousand. blueberries are grown in the eastern, northern and central part of Ukraine, mainly in the regions of Zakarpattia, Volyn, Zhytomyr, Kyiv and Cherkasy.

VARIETY

According to experts, the Duke variety accounts for 40% of all varieties grown in Ukraine. The second place in terms of area is shared by 'Bluecrop'/'Bluegold', with a share of about 30%, and in third place is the late maturing variety 'Elliot', whose share is about 15%. If we mention another early variety from New Zealand, 'Reka', then this is a list of all varieties that can be grown today in Ukraine without a license, but it cannot be stated categorically that only these varieties are grown in Ukraine, since commercial plantations of licensed varieties have already appeared: 'Huron', 'Draper', 'Liberty' and 'Aurora', but their share in the total production would be insignificant.

PRODUCTION FACILITIES

One of the main problems of the blueberries market in Ukraine is the use of established cultivation traditions, the low level of use of new technologies and the lack of standardisation of berry cultivation. A significant amount of blueberries is grown in households that do not have appropriate certifications, and are therefore not interesting for international markets; moreover, these products are not shown in statistics, which leads to the existence of a shadow component of the market.

In general, the peculiarity of the berry market in Ukraine is that the main producers are medium and small farmers (30% of production), as well as private farms (70%). Large farmers and farms are not in a hurry to plant berries on large areas; this is largely due to uncertainty in the land market: no one will plant on temporarily leased agricultural land.

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Ukrainian blueberries for sale in local supermarkets

In order to operate more successfully on foreign markets, Ukrainian producers of berries join cooperatives. Very often, members of a cooperative export different types of berries to EU countries. Cooperative membership enables owners of small organic farms (up to 100 hectares) to receive technological support, as well as to sell crops at European prices.

MARKET: FRESH AND FROZEN

As a result, the following main trends can be identified in the blueberries market, which influence the Ukrainian market:

  • Growth in the number of producers of blueberries.
  • Cultivation of organic products. This stimulates an increase in exports, as demand for organic berries is high in foreign sales markets.
  • Search for new sales markets.

Size of the market for fresh blueberries (thousands of tonnes)

 201720182019
Production1,31,12,3
Imports0,20,51,0
Exports1,91,32,0
Source: Inventure

FROZEN

Despite all the difficulties of the season in 2020 and the decline in exports of fresh berries, Ukraine still managed to slightly increase the export of frozen berries. Poland in 2020 remained a key market for sales of frozen berries from Ukraine and increased the volume of imports of these products by 20%, to 17.8 thousand tonnes. In European countries, there was also a significant increase in the supply of frozen berries to Germany (+ 84% to 4.2 thousand tonnes), the Netherlands (+ 46% to 1.7 thousand tonnes) and Belgium (+ 63% to 1.1 thousand tonnes). Meanwhile, China continued to remain the main market for Ukrainian products outside the European Union, increasing its purchases of frozen berries from Ukraine, albeit at a slower pace than before: in 2018 China bought 490 tonnes of frozen berries from Ukraine, and in 2019 and 2020 respectively1.3 thousand tonnes and 1.4 thousand tonnes.

The start of the 2021 season has been delayed by 10-14 days compared to the previous one. Currently, prices for small bulk shipments of blueberries from local farms range between 160 UAH / kg - 200 UAH / kg (€ 4.85 - € 6.06/kg).

DOMESTIC CONSUMPTION

The market for blueberries in Ukraine is only just beginning: per capita consumption of blueberries in Ukraine is four times lower than in the EU, implying great potential for growth in domestic consumption. Most is purchased in June-August.

In summary, the main advantage of growing blueberries in Ukraine is the low cost of cultivation, the presence of fertile soil and a favourable climate.

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