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“There will be enough volumes of Polish blueberries this year, despite these frosts"

Although the planting of Polish blueberries has been on a high level recently, this trend seems to have slowed down by now, says Sandra Stefaniak-Syguła, co-owner of Polish berry trader Berrytrade: "The pace of planting new blueberries has slowed down. However, there are replacements of old, not the best quality-wise varieties into new genetics, which are very promising when it comes to their shelf-life and are desired by customers especially in far-away destinations because of their excellent taste and hardness."

Despite the frosty weather in Poland, Stefaniak-Syguła has no doubt that there will be sufficient volumes to supply all of their clients. "There will be enough volumes of Polish blueberries this year. I can only speak for our region, which is Mazovia, in central Poland, where plantations of our associated growers are located. Indeed there were some frosts, which are very typical in our climate and normally occur in May. This year, just like in many other countries of Central and Eastern Europe, the blooming has sped up due to very warm spring and already started in April. The frosts are actually still happening this week, so the fight is still on. As it looks right now, approximately 20-30% of blossoms of early varieties probably got affected by the frosts."

According to Stefaniak-Syguła, the frosts will actually bring some balance to the market, as many of the newly planted orchards will go into full production this season: "However, in my opinion this is paradoxically a good correction, due to the fact that in past couple of years a lot of new hectares of early variety Duke were planted in Poland. Now, plants are entering in their full production stage and if it wasn't for this reduction of volumes caused by the frosts, there could be more supply of blueberries from Poland than there is demand for them. A correction of supply means that the price won't be under such a big pressure like it was in 2021 for example, when supply was very good in many producing countries all across Europe, which resulted in limited demand for Polish blueberries for a couple of weeks in July."

Stefaniak-Syguła would love to see their blueberry exports towards the Eastern markets increase this season. "Our main goal for the Polish blueberry season will be to develop air shipments to countries in the Middle and Far East. That's why we formed a new sales team, dedicated only for organising sales and logistics to these specific locations. We benefit from the fact that our facility is only 40 km from the Warsaw Cargo Airport, with many direct flights to Gulf countries or to Asia. This year will be the first one in which Polish growers are allowed to export their blueberries to mainland China. That's why our associated growers are already undergoing audits at their plantations by authorities, assigned to make sure that all expectations of Chinese customers are met. Our packing facility is also under severe monitoring. The opening of the Chinese market is a huge opportunity for the Polish blueberry industry and at the same time a huge challenge, because quality expectations of Chinese customers are very high."

Berrytrade has made multiple investments for their blueberry season, Stefaniak-Syguła explains: "We have made huge investments throughout the entire last year. We moved into a modern facility with over 3000 square meters of cooling space and we purchased two modern AI-enabled Tomra Kato 260 optical sorters for blueberries with capacity to sort over 50 tons of blueberries a day. This infrastructure allows us to sort and pack at least 1200 tons during the Polish season. For the season, we'd love to open new export destinations. In my opinion, still not enough effort is made to export blueberries outside of standard destinations, as Polish market or Germany."

Overall the season could start earlier and the peak season is expected to be longer than last year. "We expect that the season will start about 10 to 14 days earlier than it did in 2023. This means that in the second half of June, we'll already be sending first pallets of blueberries by air, and around the beginning of July we should be exporting full truckloads of packed blueberries to European retailers. When we observe the blueberry bushes, it looks like the season should be long this year. For example on the Duke variety, we can at the same time observe the starting blossoms and already fruit buds on the same variety - this means that the peaking of only this variety will be extended in time," Stefaniak-Syguła concludes.

For more information:
Sandra Stefaniak-Syguła
Tel: +48 692 640 720
Email: [email protected]