Last week, the mangers of Fruit Inform Project agency (Ukraine) organized and carried out the webinar highlighting the blueberry production in former CIS countries and its marketing. They presented the results of unique study covering 75% of commercial blueberry production in Ukraine, Belarus, Russia and Uzbekistan.
The study conducted by Fruit-Inform shows that next 5 years, the blueberry production rates will continue growing in the Eastern Europe. Ukraine is the Eastern European leader in the blueberry business, with areas expanding by 43% annually in 2016-2019, said Ievgen Kuzin, Fruit-Inform Analyst. Thus, most volume of the Ukrainian blueberry crop was sold out domestically: the crop was 35-40% less than in 2019 due to unexpected frost late in spring, and along with the growing demand, the price grew by 30%, making the export unnecessary. At the same time, it is remarkable that small farmers started to export to the Middle East and to Asia. Logistic is currently complicated, but hopefully the transit system will presently be upgrading and developing, believes Taras Bashtannyk, Director of Ukrainian Berry Company.
Other challenges for Ukrainian producers are crop protection (just 1% of the crop is growing on protected area), shortage of labour force (many Ukrainians leave the country for working in Central and Western Europe) and global competition. The growers should focus on the efficiency, the development of post-harvesting treatment, added-value services, etc. Ukraine may turn out into a real competitor to Morocco, as the former is closer to European consumer markets.
Long-term blueberry market outlook for the Eastern Europe and Central Asia
Ukraine and Russia are large producers of blueberry, but Belarus may lead in investments in blueberry handling technologies in the next five years, said Oleg Bosyy, Managing Partner of FruiTech Company. With the area of 3,000 ha, Belarus has big potential. Currently the quality of the crop is rather poor, besides the post-harvest treatment and packaging service are most primitive. However, the potential export of the country to Russia is big: it is just 5 hour drive from Minsk to Moscow, and small lots of the berry (3 to 5 tons) are tax free.
As for Uzbekistan, blueberry is currently a “show-off” commodity for the Uzbeks, it is a must have for wealthy people treating guests; the retail price reaches 40-50$ sometimes. Still the country may become a Chile in Central Asia, believes Andriy Yarmak, Investment Officer (FAO). The climate is most favourable, it is sunny and dry; there is enough supply of fresh water of high quality; there is enough labour force; farmers are hard-working. The production of early varieties may become the niche segment for farmers who will export them to Russia, India, China, and as far as South Asia. Although the logistic system is not well developed yet, but the transit through Iranian ports is possible.
Thus, Uzbekistan is the country with largest potential in the region.