Ukraine has become a leading exporter of raspberries, ranked seventh in the world and fourth in Europe in terms of net exports. Of the top 10 raspberry exporters in 2016, Ukraine was the only country to have increased export volumes. Following a 22-fold increase in total exports in 2016, by the end of 2017 Ukraine is expected to have at least doubled its exports to around 12 thousand tonnes. This also puts Ukraine on par with China and Mexico in terms of raspberry export volumes and behind only three countries in the world: Serbia, Poland and Chile.
According to Mohamed Manssouri, Director of TCI, FAO and Andriy Yarmak, Economist at TCIC, FAO; "Raspberries were strangers to the shelves of Ukrainian supermarkets five years ago. On the rare occasion that they could be found, their seasonal availability was brief. Now fresh raspberries are available from May through October and have become ubiquitous in the country, especially for roadside trade in Kiev, which has been thriving on these berries."
Retail raspberry prices below 1 euro per kilo during the production season, make Ukrainian production very competitive compared to their EU counterparts.
"Despite lower the lower prices, producers and retailers are still able to make a profit, which has been attracting more and more people to start growing raspberries and other soft fruits. Many Ukrainians, who used to go to Poland as seasonal raspberry pickers, have now started their own small plantations, on the back of new opportunities and financial rewards," said Manssouri and Yarmak.
A majority of the new opportunities in raspberry production are a result of promotion by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), particularly in the western region of the country, through practical seminars and promotional information through the media and various industry events.
"Many experts have been skeptical of the Ukrainian raspberry sector, citing a lack of knowledge and experience of international markets, inconsistent quality, and a wide breadth of varieties, which keeps prices low, as reasons to halt any advancements. Although these challenges do exist, the progress being made in Ukraine is still impressive," shared Manssouri and Yarmak.
The Ukrainian market has an abundance of raspberries, yet the lack of freezing facilities remains a challenge. The lack of facilities has meant that some growers were forced to sell their raspberries for as little as 0.35 euro per kilo and other were forced to send their fresh raspberries to Poland to be sold for processing.
"What keeps Ukraine competitive against the lack of facilities is that labour is still relatively inexpensive and has a lot of available land for growing, which can be leased inexpensively, for long periods of time. In addition agribusiness is viewed as an attractive investment in Ukraine, with many wealthy Ukrainians investing in agriculture or the food industry,"
"Knowledge transfer has also been a key feature of this success. Between 2015 and 2017 several producer associations were formed, and numerous magazines and web-portals devoted to raspberry-growing technologies were launched. Countless seminars, conferences, congresses and training sessions have also been organised in all major growing regions enabling growers to tap into the experience of other leading raspberry-producing countries and share their own experiences."
The FAO and the EBRD are supporting the sector by focusing their efforts on helping growers, who are mostly small-scale farmers, and processors develop new markets, improve efficiency and the quality of produce, and develop cooperatives to invest in processing, storage and trade.
Experts from the two organizations have also contributed to the development of new cooperative legislation, which is now being reviewed by the Ukrainian parliament, and ongoing training is being provided to associations and farmers’ groups in various aspects of marketing and export development.
"The soft fruits sector is transforming rural areas in Ukraine, boosting incomes and creating an abundance of seasonal and permanent jobs, and now exporting fresh raspberries to the EU is a real possibility. Geographically, Ukraine is ideally situated to export its produce to neighbouring EU countries, and if produce quality, logistics and packaging could be assured, Ukrainian raspberries would almost certainly be competitive on EU markets," concluded Manssouri and Yarmak.
For more information:
Mohamed Manssouri, Director TCI, FAO
Andriy Yarmak, Economist TCIC, FAO