26 Jul 2021

POLAND, BLUEBERRIES SEASON AT ITS PEAK, PRICE DISAPPOINTMENT...

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The blueberries 2021 season has also begun in earnest in Poland. Harvesting of the early variety Duke is slowly drawing to a close, but the medium-early varieties are already being harvested in large numbers, including 'Bluecrop', which still dominates the structure of Polish plantations of blueberries. It seems that we will see a significant accumulation of harvests in the coming weeks, as the warm weather has significantly accelerated the ripening of the fruit.

TIME ACCELERATES THE MATURATION OF THE BLUEBERRIES

Not only 'Bluecrop', but also many other medium-early varieties are harvested in the plantations. The visible increase in the supply of blueberries is also linked to the start of harvesting from the young plantations that are beginning to bear fruit. As the last few weeks have been warm and we have had a significant increase in growing hours, the plants have accelerated a lot. In the plantations with full fertigation, we have observed a very fast pace of growth and fruit ripening," informs Krzysztof Żabówka, Managing Director of Daifressh Berry. So in the next two weeks we can expect a big availability of blueberries, but already in the second decade of August the fruit on the market will probably be much less.

FULL HARVEST

The warm, sunny climate has a positive effect on the quality ofPolish blueberries. Harvested by hand and at the right stage, they have their bloom and proper texture. Especially where plant nutrition has been properly taken care of by fertigation and supplementary foliar fertilisation. The Brix value is at a good level, i.e. between 7.6-9.8. This means that the producers of blueberries are very aware of the customer to whom the product is delivered and what values they expect, says Krzysztof Żabówka. In insufficiently irrigated and fertilised plantations, there are only problems with maintaining a high standard of fruit. This trend could intensify with the next harvest, especially of varieties like 'Bluecrop'.

THE MARKET IS SATURATED WITH BLUEBERRIES

Sales on both the domestic and export markets are so far relatively good, although at this point (23 July) some saturation of the European market with blueberries is already visible. Research shows that many Poles want to change their diet to be healthier by eating more fruit and vegetables. The consumption of berries is also successfully promoted as part of the 'Time for Polish Superfruits' campaign, which is why, in my opinion, there is potential for further growth of the blueberries market," adds Dominika Kozarzewska. Every year the sale of blueberries for export increases slightly, but we feel the breath of competition from other countries and continents on our shoulders, which is already being produced in the same period. At the moment, there is less demand for fruit from Poland on export markets. Locally produced fruit is now available in Germany. On the other hand, deliveries of blueberries from South Africa are already reaching Great Britain, informs Dominika Kozarzewska, president of the Polish group of fruit producers. There is also a growing demand for blueberries on the domestic market.

DISAPPOINTING PRICES

When supply increases, prices fall. For good quality blueberries intended for export, prices can still be obtained at the level of 16-18 PLN/kg (for the producer, equal to Eur 3.50-4-00), although many foreign recipients alsooffer much lower prices, up to 8 PLN/kg (Eur 1.75/kg). Meanwhile, companies buying blueberries in central Poland, in the situation of a visible increase in supply, lowered their prices to the level of 7-9 PLN/kg (Eur 1.50-2.00/kg). Prices on wholesale markets are at a similar level. A price increase is expected only after mid-August, when the "blue peak" will have passed and the harvesting of medium-early varieties will be completed.

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Planting of blueberry Bluecrop, the main variety grown in Poland

Many growers, especially those on smaller plantations, are disappointed with the price situation. In the absence of alternative sales opportunities, they are forced to deliver fruit to buying companies at much lower prices than expected. Meanwhile, for just picking fruit this season you have to pay from 2.5 PLN/kg to 3 PLN/kg (Eur 0.55 - 0.65/kg). When you sell blueberries at 7 PLN/kg (Eur 1.50/kg), you can forget about any profit.

THERE WILL BE NO RECORD COLLECTION

Looking at the situation of blueberries plantations, one should not expect a record harvest this season. After the frosty winter of 2020/21, many plantations suffered significant losses related to flower bud frost, especially of the more sensitive varieties. Local storms and thunderstorms have also caused severe damage and fruit is not being harvested in many hail-damaged plantations.

DRAPER HAS SIGNIFICANT POTENTIAL THIS SEASON

The shortage of varieties in which foreign customers are interested proves to be a major problem in the blueberries trade. This season there are especially many demands on blueberries in the PREMIUM category and on varieties such as 'Draper', 'Valor', 'Megas Blue' or 'Last Call'. Many varieties commonly grown in Poland (e.g. Bluecrop) are losing competition with southern varieties, especially in terms of firmness and 'crispness' of the fruit. In my opinion, in the coming years it will be necessary to replace a significant part of the plantations and to replace older varieties with new ones from the breeding programmes," says Dominika Kozarzewska.

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Poland, blueberry Draper

The continuing question, however, is which varieties will replace the existing 'standards' such as 'Duke', 'Bluecrop', 'Bluegold', 'Nelson', 'Elliott'. Most of the new varieties of blueberries that appear have a mixture of genes from the southern blueberry and, as last winter showed, are not able to survive in the harsh climate of Central and Eastern Europe. So all that remains is to wait for the next suggestions from breeders.

Source: Jagodnik
Jagodnik is part of the global network of Italian Berry

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