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Blue dream – Ukraine sets historic blueberry export record

In a remarkable feat, Ukraine shattered records in 2023 by exporting an unprecedented volume of over 4,000 tons of fresh blueberries to international markets, according to EastFruit. This milestone was particularly astounding, given the backdrop of Russia's ongoing military aggression and the substantial logistical challenges Ukrainian exporters faced, including border blockades by Polish agriculturalists and transporters.

Ukraine's burgeoning blueberry sector owes its success to the proliferation of youthful plantations, which has naturally boosted average yields and production volumes without necessitating an expansion of cultivated areas. "The blueberry industry's growth trajectory is also fueled by the sector's increasing appeal to investors, thanks to a strategic approach to business planning and operations. Additionally, a dip in domestic demand, prompted by the mass exodus of Ukrainians fleeing the conflict, has played a significant role," remarks Andriy Yarmak, an economist with the FAO's Investment Department.

Yarmak further notes that the past year's near-ideal weather conditions laid the groundwork for a robust blueberry harvest. A fortuitous turn of events towards the season's end provided an export boon: a sudden yield decline in Peru, the globe's top blueberry exporter, due to intense heat during the flowering stage, precipitated a surge in European blueberry prices; a period typically marked by a price downturn. This anomaly spurred a spike in Ukrainian blueberry exports during the atypical months of August and September, fetching premium prices.

The diversification of export destinations has been a pivotal strategy for Ukrainian blueberry vendors, particularly as Poland's reliability as a trade partner waned. This shift enabled Ukrainian exporters to command better prices for their produce in most instances.

Consequently, Ukraine's blueberry exports to Poland plummeted by 39% in 2023. Conversely, exports to Germany – a primary market for Polish blueberries – soared by a staggering 1,800%. This signifies Ukraine's burgeoning presence in the German blueberry market, previously dominated by Poland.

Notably, exports to the Netherlands surged by 37%, and to Spain and other EU nations by over 300%. The UK, one of the top four consumer markets, saw an 11% increase in Ukrainian blueberry imports.

Furthermore, Ukrainian producers have begun direct blueberry shipments to premier EU supermarket chains, renowned for their stringent quality standards and consistent supply demands.

The prospect of replicating 2023's success remains uncertain as Ukraine grapples with Russia's continued territorial ambitions and the resultant humanitarian and infrastructural devastation. The labor shortage, exacerbated by the conflict, poses a significant challenge, compounded by unpredictable weather patterns that threaten future blueberry yields.


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