According to EastFruit analysts, in 2021 Ukraine increased the exports of blueberries by 65% in volume compared to 2020. At the same time, export volumes of fresh blueberries were 18% lower than in the record-breaking 2019. The downward trend in the price of blueberries, which is unpleasant for Ukrainian exporters, should also be noted – the average export price for blueberries in 2021 was on average 9% lower than in 2020.
“We have to admit that the structure of blueberry exports from Ukraine has deteriorated. Its geography, unfortunately, shows a bias not towards direct exports, but sales to Poland and Belarus. Polish traders then re-export Ukrainian blueberries to other EU countries, earning additional money on them. Belarus, in turn, re-exports Ukrainian blueberries to the Russian market. And these two countries accounted for 65% of the total export of Ukrainian blueberries. The third-largest importer of Ukrainian blueberries is the Netherlands, which is also a major intermediary. Therefore, more than 70% of blueberries from Ukraine were exported to intermediary countries and only about one-third to consumer countries.” says Andriy Yarmak, an economist at the Investment Centre of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).
“Considering that the area planted with blueberries in Ukraine, according to various estimates of market participants and experts, is growing by 600-700 or even 1000 hectares annually, we should have expected export growth to levels above 2019 in 2021. However, this does not happen. I do not think that the main reason is the growth in the capacity of the domestic market, although this trend has indeed been present in recent years. In my opinion, the main reason is that Ukrainian growers cannot yet find an effective technology for growing blueberries, have problems with volume consolidation, post-harvest handling, and do not make enough efforts to promote berries, primarily in foreign markets. This is confirmed by the data on the sale of more than 70% of the berries to intermediary countries, which means that Ukrainian growers have lost millions of dollars in revenue” Andriy Yarmak notes.
In 2021, Ukrainian growers complained about the collapse in blueberry prices, claiming it was record low on the domestic market. However, in their analytical material EastFruit analysts proved that blueberry prices were not record low, although they decreased compared to the abnormal 2020. Evgeniy Kharlan, Director for Strategy and Development of Nikdaria Company (TM IBerry) during the 17th International Conference “Fruits and Vegetables of Ukraine-2021. New Investment Opportunities” on December 3 said that the Ukrainian blueberry market is in for a big shock if blueberry areas continues to grow. This will come true if the berry growers do not start cooperation following the example of fruit producers, who have been jointly selling apples and other fruits for more than a year through the export platform of the Ukrainian Horticultural Association.
Currently, many countries are actively expanding the area planted with blueberries. While many believe that blueberry consumption will grow faster than production growth, this has not yet happened. The world’s leading exporters such as Peru and Chile are forced to reduce the average export price of their berries every year. At the same time, labor shortages and rising harvesting costs are already putting pressure on further expansion opportunities in these countries. Even in the largest EU blueberry-producing countries, such as Spain, growers got a significantly lower price for blueberries for several years in a row than Ukrainian growers. This means that a decrease in blueberry price in Ukraine is inevitable, given an explosive growth in costs in 2022.
Accordingly, blueberry growers of Ukraine should urgently consolidate their efforts to find important technological and marketing solutions in order to ensure sustainable development for this segment. Already now, many investors prefer to invest money in the cultivation of raspberries, the prices for which in 2021 were even higher than the prices for blueberries. The cultivation of raspberries is much cheaper and the investment is lower.
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