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Potato market surprises: Ukraine exports potatoes to Serbia and Belarus but imports it from Moldova

EastFruit analysts draw attention to new unexpected developments on the Ukrainian potato market in September 2021.

Despite the fact that the harvesting of potatoes in farms is still ongoing in most regions of Ukraine, the international trade is unusually active. At the same time, Ukraine both exports and imports marketable potatoes!

One of the most sensational news now is potato imports from Moldova. This is unusual, primarily, because Moldova has traditionally been the main potato market for Ukrainian potato growers.

First of all, packaged, calibrated, washed potatoes were normally supplied from Ukraine to Moldova, the demand for which was high among supermarket chains in the country, and in Moldova none of the growers had the capacity for post-harvest handling for potatoes. In addition, potato production in Ukraine was better developed, while Moldovan farmers focused on fruit production. This kept the prices for potatoes high, which gradually attracted more and more producers to this sector, mainly from the grain segment.

In the 2020/21 season, potato prices in Moldova turned out to be extremely low due to cheap imports from the European Union. This, in turn, was associated with a shortage of demand for potatoes due to lockdowns and restaurant closings. However, growers in Moldova did not reduce the area planted with potatoes, as they used remains of unsold marketable potatoes as planting material.

As a result, potato prices in Moldova are now the lowest in the region – even lower than in Poland, and Moldovan potato growers are discussing switching from growing potatoes to growing grains. However, potatoes grown in 2021 should be sold. One of sales markets for potato growers in northern Moldova is the border regions of Ukraine, because here prices are now noticeably higher than in Moldova and the demand is quite high, too.

However, it is only part of the story of the Ukrainian potato market. It turns out that the western regions of Ukraine, where a good harvest of potatoes has grown this year, are now exporting to the Balkan countries, primarily to Serbia, where potato prices are significantly higher. Potatoes from this region are also exported to Belarus, where prices are higher than in Ukraine.

The most interesting fact is that potato prices in Poland are lower than in Ukraine, but much higher (by 70%) than a year earlier. Local growers and traders consider them high and even expect a shortage of potatoes in the 2021/22 season. Poland is looking for opportunities to import potatoes from other countries now, during harvesting.

Belarus, as we already wrote, is actively importing potatoes this season, despite the harvest still being in progress. This is unusual, but it is explained by the poor potato harvest in the country. Therefore, potatoes are purchased from other countries, including Ukraine. Since the difference in prices between the two countries is not that large, potatoes on the Belarusian market mainly come from the northern regions of Ukraine. At the same time, farmers of these regions report poor potato harvest and a shift in its timing.

Thus, the situation on the potato market looks very unusual: Ukraine both imports and exports potatoes at the same time during harvesting. Ukraine now trades in potatoes with unexpected countries. Therefore, it is possible that the new potato season will bring many more surprises to the potato market participants.


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