EastFruit experts consider deep freezing of berries, fruits and vegetables to be one of the most attractive investment niches for Central Asia and actively inform local investors about it. And this information is bearing fruit. Uzbekistan began to significantly increase the exports of frozen vegetables and fruits in 2021. Finally, the first enterprise for deep freezing of fruits and berries has opened in Tajikistan, with the consulting support of the FAO and EBRD project, within which the EastFruit platform also operates.
At the end of 2021, Harif LLC completed the construction and setting up of the first deep freezing plant, which is capable of processing up to 15 tonnes of berries, fruits or vegetables per day by static freezing. The enterprise was established in the north of Tajikistan, near the city of Khujand. The first freezing plant in the country will start freezing strawberries, raspberries, cherries and apricots in spring 2022. Since everything can be frozen, freezing other fruit and vegetable raw materials will also be considered – it can be plums, peaches, melons, rose hips, vegetables, and even wild plants. In the future, the enterprise may give an impetus to the cultivation of other fruit and vegetables valuable for the global market, that were not previously grown in the country.
Freezing plant “Harif” is the first enterprise of its kind in Tajikistan. Until now, there were plants for drying vegetables, canning fruits and vegetables, processing dried fruits, and producing juices in the country, but until recently there were no deep freezing factories. Thus, this is an innovative enterprise for Tajikistan. Tajikistan is famous for the high quality of fruits with a high BRIX content, and relatively low prices for the raw material. However, some of the grown products are simply lost because the possibilities of selling them for fresh export are very limited.
Local farmers, realizing that all products cannot be sold fresh, sell the remaining ones for drying under the sun or dry them themselves, but the revenue per kilogram of fresh produce is quite low. Tajikistan is famous for its dried apricots, apples, plums and dried fruit mixes. There are also several vegetable drying enterprises operating in the country. However, the sale of fresh or frozen products is much more profitable, since the revenue per hectare from their sale is several times higher than from the sale of dried ones.
By the way, dried fruits have already begun to yield market share to fresh fruits even on the market of Central Asian countries, where they are a traditional product for the local population. Supermarket chains in the region, note that fruit and vegetable freezing is also one of the fastest growing sales segments even in Uzbekistan! In particular, this was said by the manager of the Makro supermarket chain Roman Saifulin from Uzbekistan in his interview with EastFruit. Therefore, frozen fruits and berries of local production may appear in supermarkets in Tajikistan thanks to the new project.
“For me personally, the creation of the first plant for freezing fruits and berries in Tajikistan is a great victory, because it allows to demonstrate the potential of this business to other investors in the region. After all, it is much easier to export frozen fruits, vegetables, berries and wild plants than fresh ones. Deep freezing is one of the fastest growing segments of the global fruit and vegetable market. This means that the freeze will allow Tajikistan to boost exports, increase the incomes of farmers and vegetable growers, and create new jobs along the entire value chain. Fruits for freezing can be harvested in the phase of full ripeness, when their taste reaches a peak, unlike those for fresh market. Thus, I hope that, thanks to this enterprise, many countries of the world will appreciate the unique taste of Tajik fruits”, Andriy Yarmak, Economist at the Investment Centre of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).
Harif’s fruit and berry freezing facility consists of an acceptance and inspection department, blast chilling, blast freezing, storage and a cold processing and packaging department. It even has its own laboratory. The enterprise will be able to store more than 300 tonnes of frozen fruits and berries, for which a modern storage facility has been built. There is also an area for simultaneous cooling of 500 tonnes of fruit, which will allow to launch a project for the exports of fresh, chilled premium-quality products. More than 30 people will work at this innovative enterprise during the freezing season.
“We are already planning to purchase raw materials from households and farms of both the Sughd and Khatlon regions of Tajikistan. In the future, we plan to create a cooperative for growing traditional and niche berries for Tajikistan on an area of about 50 hectares,” says the director of Harif LLC, Bakhtiyor Abduvokhidov, who has also long been a consultant to the EastFruit project, FAO and EBRD.
Convinced of the prospects of freezing fruits and vegetables, and trying for several years in a row to convince local investors of this, Mr. Abduvohidov decided to set a personal example and create the first plant on his own, using the most modern technologies. “Ukraine earns $200 million from the exports of frozen berries alone, and Poland and Serbia – half a billion dollars each. But the climate in Tajikistan is better, labor and electricity are cheaper, the growing season for berries is longer, so there is no reason for Tajikistan not to earn money in this growing and promising market. Moreover, we will be able to make high and even premium-quality products and get a higher price for them,” says Bakhtiyor Abduvokhidov.
He also notes that small farmers in the region have recently begun to engage in the cultivation of strawberries. This gives hope for a sustainable expansion of the raw material areas and the creation of an alternative to the fresh market by buying part of their products for freezing. The Harif company plans to help colleagues with information and advice on growing technologies, as well as provide with professional support of production projects.
In addition, the company built ultra-modern multi-level greenhouses for the propagation of seedlings for strawberries and brought planting material of the most popular berry varieties from Italy. Hydroponic low-volume technology is used in the cultivation, which is also an innovation for the strawberry business in Tajikistan. The company plans to create its own nursery and plantation for the industrial cultivation of strawberries of the best world varieties.
The project for the creation of a fruit and berry freezing enterprise was financed by Harif’s own funds, and freezing equipment was purchased with the support of the USAID CTJ project. Harif will produce with an export orientation. For this, it is planned to obtain HACCP, ISO 22000 and GLOBALG.A.P. certificates for the berry growers who will supply raw materials for freezing.
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