Modernisation brings UK interest & Royals for Serbian cherry company

Big news for Serbian cherry company Ritopek Cherries, after the company signed a deal with Delhaize Group in Serbia to supply all of their outlets in the country, including Maxi and Mini Maxi chains, Tempo and Tempo Express, as well as their Shop & Go outlets.

Although Serbia has a long history in the fruit industry and enormous potential for high-yielding top quality crops, the greatest challenges that the company has faced
are a matter of pure organization, including quantities and sorting of the kind that major food retail outlets are looking for.

Jonathan Robinson with HRH Crown Prince Alexander of Serbia.

"The Serbian market lacks modern equipment and training. One of the first major steps that Ritopek Cherries took in developing the local industry was to train local farmers to produce fruit to Globalgap standards, and the results are already plainly evident in the higher price of their fruit and greater sales." said Jon Robinson, CEO of Ritopek Cherries.

Total Cherry
As a result, these improvements have now opened up the opportunity to supply the UK market. Ritopek Cherries are now looking to supply one of the U.K.'s largest importers of cherries, Total Cherry.

"Total Cherry have been closely following Ritopek Cherries’ progress over the last year and are now beginning a commercial relationship with them with the long term in mind. Total Cherry supply a large number of UK supermarkets and offer great insight for further development of the industry in Serbia both agronomically and commercially. Exporting the fruit on such a large scale has meant further jobs for people in Serbia, as Ritopek Cherries become the market leader in the country." continued Robinson.

Prince Charles visit to Serbia
H.R.H. Prince Charles was recently on his first official visit to Serbia in decades, in March of this year, and had the opportunity to explore growth opportunities for the local economy. H.R.H. gave a speech on the topic and mentioned that there were several options of Serbia and the U.K. working together to better the national economy of Serbia with the support and in collaboration with U.K. companies.

Ritopek Cherries CEO Jonathan Robinson met with H.R.H. Prince Charles and explained the depth and process of his own investment in Ritopek Cherries, which has led to opening new export channels for Serbian fruit and now, with Globalgap certification, selling to the U.K. and other EU markets, offering superior quality of fruit that Serbia has great potential for.

Russia remains largest import market

"There are very minor differences regarding what each market that we export to is looking for. Generally, all markets are most interested in the sweetest cherries, which we are always able to deliver as our customers specifically look to us for the quality we provide with the local farmers and our cherry sorting machines and storage facilities, and we currently export to the UK, Sweden, Russia, and UAE, to name a few markets." shared Robinson.

Russian buyers currently account for over 62% of Ritopek Cherries' business and more buyers are arriving daily as word in Russia has spread about the quality and standards of Ritopek Cherries. At this moment, the company is focused on markets that demand these high standards, as we are among the few in the entire region that can provide them.

Good season for Ritopek growers
"Considering all of the changes and training implemented for the first time in this market, the season has gone tremendously well. There was some fruit damage from hail at the very beginning of the season with the Burlat variety, and late Spring is always a volatile season for Serbian farmers as extreme weather changes typical to the region have to be manoeuvred and dealt with, but the damage this year wasn’t significant enough to report," said Robinson.

Yugoslavian Crown Prince Alexander tasting Ritopek cherries.

Varieties that carry high brix values and travel well tend to be the most popular, although sweetness can also be a factor for many buyers. Among them are the Benton, Kordia, Summit, and Carmen varieties.

Prices this season are good and, more importantly, stable. Cherries are constantly in high demand and some European regions have had heavy rain and frost, which has had a visible impact on their supply. Serbia’s harvest this year remains unaffected and they are seeing higher initial demand with the Burlat variety, up as much as 34% compared to last year’s harvest. However, Ritopek Cherries does expect the high demand to level out as other varieties come on to the market.

Jonathan Robinson
Ritopek Cherries
Tel: +381 11 8062 333

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