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Red tape causing labour issues for Polish blueberry producersFinding labour is becoming increasingly difficult for Polish producers. This is true of all types of fruit and vegetables, but even more so for blueberry producers.
"A large majority of the seasonal workers in Poland are Ukrainians, but this is becoming more and more difficult due to EU legislation about hiring non-EU workers, along with Polish legislation. There is so much red tape and lots of documents to fill in for each worker, which makes it almost impossible for a company to handle. Blueberries are a delicate product which need to be picked by hand, but the Polish government has set up the system to suit apple growers, who only need one tenth of the amount of workers we do," said Dominika Kozarzewska.
The situation is also complicated by the fact that more and more Ukrainian workers are going to countries like the Netherlands and Germany for more money. We can't find workers here in Poland either, especially now that our economy is doing so well.
Modern blueberry production in Ukraine continues to increase and Dominika was asked if she saw the country as a threat.
"Firstly, I think that we shouldn't underestimate Ukraine and its potential. It is true, they are growing quickly, and due to grants, are able to suddenly have huge plantations that producers might not have the experience for. Experience wise, they are where Poland was in the 1990's. However, instead of seeing Ukraine as competition, I see a lot of potential for us cooperating and supplying export markets together," Dominika continued.
There were other challenges, such as weather which complicated production, and UK currency issues which complicated trade in 2017, but commercially Dominika said that the season was successful.
"I think that the most important thing producers in Poland need to focus on right now is marketing. We have been calibrating our blueberries, and what we are able to offer is high quality and really tasty blueberries. We have observed that people are willing to pay more for convenience than in the past in Poland and they are moving more towards peeled punnets and shakers with lids."
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