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Blackberry production providing great opportunities for Serbian growersAfter the break up of Yugoslavia, the production of grafted grapes in the region which is now Serbia, fell from 45 million pieces to 10 million in 2003. In recent years, production has been increasing once again, but now it is also making way for new products such as berries, which are becoming a popular choice for producers because of the short harvest time, good profits and small amount of pesticides needed for growing.
Starting back in 1995 with only 2 hectares, Aleksandar International has been grafting fruit plants since 1995 for Serbian growers and has been passing on what they have learned while working in the industry from generation to generation. Since its inception, the nursery surface has grown from 2 to 100 hectares. Along with providing plants, the company also provides work cutting, parafining, and individual packing for various markets.
"We have started increasing our production of berry fruit seedlings for blackberries, raspberries, gooseberries, currants and the jostaberry. There are around 7,000 hectares of blackberry production in Serbia. A large majority of the blackberries grown are the older varieties like Cacanska and Torn Free, used primarily for the processing industry. However, more and more growers are making the switch to the table varieties because the profit margin is much higher than for the processed berries," shared company President, Aleksandar Jovanovic.
The raspberry is the most popular berry, but demand is increasing for the blackberry and the company has seen a large increase in blackberry plants being sent to their customers in Germany, Italy, Turkey and Russia. The most exported varieties are the Loch Ness, Chester and Triple crown, which are sold as fresh berries in the local markets.
"The best table variety for blackberries are the Loch Ness, because of their longer shelf life, large size (average size around 6.5 grams) and color retention. It is also perfect for industrial processing because it retains its color when frozen. When it comes to growing, we recommend that they are planted around 200-500 meters above sea level. Serbian growers have been receiving a good price of around EUR 3 per kilo for the Loch Ness variety when exported to the Russian market," said Aleksandar.
"There are a lot of benefits to growing the berry fruit seedlings as they are easier to produce that fruit trees, which need to be grafted, and they also give fruit within the first year they are planted and are up to full production by the second. 99% of the old berry plantations in Serbia are on open field, but we have seen more Serbian producers started to grow in greenhouses as well."
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