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New record in greenhouse tomato imports but Ukraine’s exports are recovering too

Once again, Ukraine sharply increased imports of greenhouse tomatoes in 2020 updating the previous record set a year earlier, according to EastFruit analysts. Greenhouse tomato imports increased by 21% and reached a record of 86,700 tons. Considering the rise in tomato prices, the growth in value terms was even more significant reaching 56%. In total, Ukrainian importers spent more than $77.6 million on imported tomatoes. If we take into account the standard trade margins, then Ukrainian consumers spent about UAH 4 billion (approximately $145 million) on imported greenhouse tomatoes.

“Ukraine has a very high level of domestic energy prices compared to countries exporting gas, oil, and coal. Accordingly, the production of one gigacalorie (GCal) of heat in Ukraine costs twice as much as in Uzbekistan, almost 3 times more than in Russia, and almost 5 times more than in Kazakhstan or Turkmenistan, not to mention the fact that the need for the amount of heat for heating greenhouses in Ukraine is also much higher,” explains Andriy Yarmak, an economist at the Investment Centre of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

“In countries such as Turkey, which supplies the bulk of off-season greenhouse produce to Ukraine, the cost of growing greenhouse products is much lower because the climate is much milder and the costs of heating greenhouses are either minimal or zero. The price continues to play the most important role for a Ukrainian consumer, which is the main reason for the growing volume of imports,” explains the FAO expert.

In 2020, Turkey supplied 68,600 tons of greenhouse tomatoes to Ukraine, which is 79% of all tomatoes exported to Ukraine. Just one year earlier, the share from Turkey was even higher and reached 90%. The sharpest increase in imports by Ukraine was from Iran in 2020, which supplied products through Azerbaijan. The volume increased more than eight times over the year. Greenhouse tomato exports from Belarus increased almost fourfold, which continued to have an advantage over Ukraine in the cost of energy resources and actively used them. The supply of greenhouse tomatoes to Ukraine from Poland has grown three and a half times and twice from the Netherlands. Poland delivered to Ukraine more than 10,000 tons of tomatoes for the first time this season.

Read also: Ukrainian producers of greenhouse cucumbers kickoff season with prices declining

On another note, systemic supplies of Uzbek greenhouse tomatoes to Ukraine have begun. In 2020, Ukraine imported 153 tons of these vegetables from Uzbekistan, while earlier Uzbekistan supplied only small trial batches of tomatoes to Ukraine.

Andriy Yarmak urges to not discount the opportunities that Ukrainian producers of greenhouse vegetables have. “For the first time in recent years, Ukraine has increased the exports of greenhouse tomatoes by expanding the range of products grown. Even in these conditions, Ukraine has developed and is competitive with the very efficient production of high-quality summer greenhouse tomatoes. Growing tomatoes is very expensive for those countries where it is too hot (i.e., where tomatoes are grown during Ukraine’s wintertime). However, the exports of Ukrainian summer tomatoes is complicated by the lack of cooperation between producers. The absolute majority of them are very small enterprises and private owners with less than 1 hectare of summer greenhouses,” says Andriy Yarmak.

Growth in greenhouse tomato exports from Ukraine amounted to 20% in the recent year in physical terms and the list of sales markets has begun to expand. The first significant export deliveries of greenhouse tomatoes went to the UAE and the Netherlands and there is an increase in exports to Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. The exports of Ukrainian greenhouse tomatoes to Moldova has also sharply increased.


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