The blueberries highbush market is one of the most dynamic developing markets in the world. The great marketing of these berries, which we owe to their healthy properties, is influencing the growing per capita consumption. Europe is the second largest importer of this fruit in the world, behind the United States, so more and more European countries are engaged in the cultivation of blueberries, and Romania is one of them.
Many Romanian growers of blueberries already cultivate more than 200 hectares of land. At the same time, they continue to invest in new plantations and technologies, such as anti-hail and irrigation systems. These investments are supported by contributions of 50% (of the value of the investment) and subsidies from the government or the European Union. The success in this production encourages other growers to grow blueberries highbush.
Theharvesting of blueberries in Romania starts at the beginning of June, thus earlier than in Poland, Germany and other central European countries, and the end of the season comes in September. The relatively low labour costs give Romanian producers a competitive advantage over their western neighbours. It also brings one of the biggest challenges facing growers: the lack of seasonal labour.
Many of these companies, in order to meet the requirements of the Western European countries where they want to sell their blueberries, have had to invest in packaging equipment. When choosing complete technology and assembling the equipment, we used the offer of the Polish company Milbor PMC, which not only offers proven machines, but also provides good international service," says Robert Kunz of Vital Berry. A 12-channel weigher with inverter was purchased (see photo). This machine has a very good efficiency, in one minute it can prepare about 140-150 packages with a capacity of 125 g or more than 2 tons of fruit in 0.5 kg buckets per hour.
Producer groups have also started up in Romania, which will allow us to offer greater quantities of homogenous goods. An example of a producer group already operating in Romania is Fruitopia, founded in 2018. The varieties of 'Duke' (the main one), 'Elliott', 'Bluecrop' and 'Aurora' are grown on the plantations of Fruitopia group members. The fruit is packaged in 125, 250 gram and 1 kg containers or packed in bulk in cardboard boxes with a capacity of 3 kg.
The limitations resulting from the lack of equipment that would allow the rapid and adequate preparation of fruit for sale, with dynamically changing demand and increasing production volume, forced the Fruitopia group to invest in machines that would allow the fruit to be packaged correctly.
Such solutions were offered to us by Milbor PMC. It is a complete sorting and packing line that can prepare 500 to 1500 kg of fruit per hour. The sortingline is made up of size and hardness sorters that allow us to discard undersized as well as damaged and soft fruit, reports Andreea Sava from Fruitopia.
Investments in solutions to automate the fruit preparation process are necessary to adapt to new market trends and consumption habits. Producers are still establishing new plantations that will lead to even larger harvests in the future. Professional machines for preparing fruit for sale help to maintain appropriate quality and to sort and package increasing quantities of product .
Thanks to government support and EU subsidies, companies can invest the funds they raise in the cultivation of blueberries, regardless of whether this is an innovative way of growing or the implementation of technologies needed at various stages of production and preparation of the fruit for sale. Machinery has a great impact on cost factors. Especially nowadays, when producers struggle with labour shortages. Having professional fruit machines results in lower labour costs and, above all, greater efficiency.
Better quality of delivered products reduces the number of complaints from consumers and customers, as well as operating costs. As the production of blueberries in Romania is growing dynamically and systematically, it can be expected that fruit sorting and packaging machines will become an important part of many farms at blueberries.