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Elite Agro offers UAE consumers locally grown veg

Abu Dhabi’s top producer Elite Agro made it its job this summer to supply vegetables and fruit locally for the first time with a new 20ha greenhouse.

UAE consumers are enjoying locally grown vegetables from Elite Agro, including a range of tomatoes and capsicums.

“Our eggplant and sweet potato continue to impress and we were fortunate to start some trial shipments of blueberries and cherries from Serbia.”

From a brand new 20ha greenhouse and packing facility near Al Ain, supported by the existing ‘home farm’ facility at Al Maha, Elite Agro supplied as many as 34 SKUs to retail, wholesale and HORECA markets.

Success amid big challenge of summer

A lot of effort has gone into developing new lines that satisfy the customer. New this summer was a flow-wrap machine that enabled Elite Agro to present produce in the best possible way, while maintaining freshness and preventing contamination. This opens the door to many new options.

One of Elite Agro’s most successful partnerships through the summer was the continuation of a ‘Farmers Club’ with a key local customer. The promotion of local product through the Farmers Club has meant that the shelves are not just full of imported product – which has normally been the case during the UAE summer.

Consumers have come to appreciate the high quality and slightly lower pricing of the local summer product, while at the same time, receiving the same benefits of safety and traceability as produce from Northern Europe.

Such partnerships open further opportunities for specialty and highly perishable products in the future. For the majority of local producers, summer is a huge challenge but Elite Agro has taken a strategic approach, instead saying summer is its friend and a season in which it will grow and supply locally.

From Morocco and Serbia: blueberries, raspberries & potatoes

Summer production is a little easier in the countries where its subsidiaries are based. While Elite Agro had some trial shipments of blueberries and cherries from Serbia, the main business this year has been potatoes. The potatoes are all covered by a processing contract but exceeded production predictions by over 20%, setting up a fine benchmark for following seasons.

Raspberries are the first crop to come out of Elite Agro’s Moroccan operation. At the time of writing, the feedback was positive. It was a great start to the raspberry growing season. The first variety expected to be harvested is the primocane Maravilla. Fruit set has been excellent and the expected yield is more than 12 tons/ha  for the first harvesting period starting at the end of September.

As for the Floricane harvesting period, expected to start in April-May for the Maravilla, Carmina and Esperanza varieties, the expected yield is about 15 tons/ha of top quality raspberry fruit under good winter weather conditions.

Elite Agro LLC is now certified to GLOBALG.A.P version 5, continuing a four year relationship with the certification of fruit, vegetables, cereals and forage. Its operations in Serbia and Morocco are setting themselves up for audits later this year, which will allow improved access to European customers.

Meanwhile, back in Abu Dhabi, the autumn planting is well underway in the net houses and Elite Agro is looking forward to a highly productive winter.

This article was first published in edition 145 (Sep-Oct 2016) of Eurofresh Distribution magazine on page 32. Read more fresh produce news from that issue at: www.eurofresh-distribution.com/magazine/145-2016-sepoct.

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Greenhouse Tomatoes: a greater role on the Polish scene

Poland’s greenhouse vegetables grew just 2% in 2015 to reach 1 million tons. Poland is in sixth position in Europe, with 5% of the market share.

Poland’s greenhouse vegetables grew just 2% in 2015 to reach 1 million tons. Poland is in sixth position in Europe, with 5% of the market share.

The cultivation area of tomatoes under cover varies from 1,500 ha to 2,600 ha, and in open fields from 8,000 ha to 13,000 ha. Approximately 70% of the area of ground tomatoes is located in the Greater Poland, Kuyavian-Pomeranian, Mazovian and Świ tokrzyskie voivodeship regions.

Since 2004, open-field harvests of tomatoes have grown by 28%, and those under cover by 46%. In 2015, approximately 66% of harvested tomatoes were from cultivation under cover, and the other 34% from open-field cultivation.

Since Poland’s entry to the EU, fresh tomato exports have risen from 45,000 tons to 99,000 tons— i.e. more than double—and they account for about 11% of production.

The main direction for exports is the CIS countries and, among the EU member states, the UK.

The country’s tomato production will have increased by 1.5%, reaching 570,000 tons of greenhouse-grown vegetables, as in 2014, representing approximately 19% of Poland’s total vegetable harvest, according to a report from the Institute for Agricultural and Forest Environment (IAFE).

Market under pressure

This was mainly due to delays in supply for the Polish market from southern EU countries due to unfavourable weather conditions during the autumn, which reduced the impact of the Russian embargo on vegetable prices in the domestic market.

The effects of the Russian embargo on prices are expected to be even greater in the second quarter of 2016, as soon as the domestic harvest starts.

This year most of the tomato production is staying in Poland. Because of this, Polish growers like Artur Matysiak from the Kalisz region have had more tomatoes available and prices have been under pressure.

Despite this context, Matysiak said Polish greenhouse tomato producers have already been working for years to adapt to changing conditions in the Polish market.

“Supermarket chains demand high quality, and while there is demand, it is mostly for good quality and the best varieties. We have specialised in premium products, so for us this situation is favorable.”

In fact, this is reflected in sales figures, which are growing every year. The farm, which has achieved success with its long-term business plan, is consequently far from discouraged by the situation caused by the embargo.

“Our farm is already one of the biggest in Central Poland, and we want to continue investing because high quality products are the future in the Polish market,” Matysiak said. Also, with the best technologies implemented in our greenhouses (such as growing lamps in winter), our production has grown compared to the previous year.

New greenhouses

As far as development is concerned, the Matysiak farm is in fact currently in the process of building new greenhouses with an area of 5 ha, which will be added to the 4 ha it already has. “Next year, we will also start to build on at least another 5 ha,” the tomato producer said.

When it comes to the development and introduction of new varieties, “We are open to new varieties if our clients demand them, and we are currently testing a few. The most popular in Poland are raspberry tomatoes (pink beef tomatoes), which is the variety that people usually grow in their small house-garden greenhouses and the one we are specialised in,” Matysiak said.

He stressed the importance of specialisation, with newly-specialised production of vine tomatoes, plum tomatoes and sweet and cherry tomatoes. All in all, this year Matysiak expects to produce 2,200 tons, taking all varieties into account, and expects to develop sales to Germany and Central Europe.