Blue dream: Ukraine sets a historical record for blueberry exports

In a remarkable feat, Ukraine broke records in 2023 by exporting an unprecedented volume of more than 4.000 tons of fresh blueberries to international markets, according to EastFruit. This milestone was particularly surprising, given the backdrop of Russia's ongoing military aggression and the significant logistical challenges faced by Ukrainian exporters, including border blockades by Polish farmers and transporters.

Ukraine's booming blueberry sector owes its success to the proliferation of young plantations, which have naturally increased average yields and production volumes without the need for an expansion of cultivated areas.

 “The growth trajectory of the blueberry industry is also driven by the growing attractiveness of the sector to investors, thanks to a strategic approach to business planning and operations. Additionally, a drop in domestic demand, caused by the mass exodus of Ukrainians fleeing the conflict, has played a major role. important," he observes. Andriy Yarmak, economist at the FAO Investment Department.

Yarmak further notes that last year's near-ideal weather conditions set the stage for a strong blueberry crop. A fortuitous turn of events towards the end of the season provided a boost to exports: a sudden drop in yields in Peru, the world's leading exporter of blueberries, due to intense heat during the flowering stage, precipitated an increase in European blueberry prices; a period typically marked by a drop in prices.

This anomaly caused an increase in exports of Ukrainian blueberries during the atypical months of August and September, reaching higher prices.

Diversifying export destinations has been a key strategy for Ukrainian blueberry suppliers, particularly as Poland's reliability as a trading partner has declined. This change allowed Ukrainian exporters to get better prices for their products in most cases.

Consequently, Ukrainian blueberry exports to Poland plummeted by 39% in 2023. By contrast, exports to Germany (a major market for Polish blueberries) soared by a staggering 1.800%. This means Ukraine's growing presence in the German blueberry market, previously dominated by Poland.

In particular, exports to the Netherlands increased by 37% and to Spain and other EU nations by more than 300%. The United Kingdom, one of the top four consumer markets, saw an 11% increase in imports of Ukrainian blueberries.

In addition, Ukrainian producers have begun direct shipments of blueberries to the main supermarket chains in the EU, recognized for their strict quality standards and constant supply demands.

The prospect of replicating the 2023 success remains uncertain as Ukraine faces Russia's continued territorial ambitions and the resulting humanitarian and infrastructural devastation. Labor shortages, exacerbated by conflict, pose a significant challenge, compounded by unpredictable weather patterns that threaten future blueberry yields.

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