Since Poland's accession to the EU in 2004 until 2018, the area ofblueberry cultivation in the country has increased twelve-fold, and the harvest has increased to over 25,000 tons, the Analysis and Strategy Office of the National Agricultural Support Center (KOWR) said.
Almost all blueberry production was designated as dessert fruit. "Such a dynamic increase in blueberry production in Poland is the result of growing interest from domestic consumers and growing demand abroad," KOWR experts said.
According to Eurostat, in 2018 Poland was the second largest blueberry producer in the EU after Spain, with a 24-percent share in the total EU harvest. The development of these crops began after Poland had joined the EU. Since then until last year, blueberry harvest increased from 4,000 to over 25,000 tons.
Countries with larger blueberry production than Poland include the United States, Canada, Peru and Mexico.
Blueberries make a very good export product because they are durable and easy to transport. That is why their sales abroad are growing so rapidly. In 2012 to 2018, blueberry exports increased from 2,000 tons up to 6,000 tons, i.e. nearly 3.5 times. Data of the Ministry of Finance for the first five months of 2019 indicate that significant growth in foreign sales has been maintained.
"From January to May 2019, twice as many blueberries were exported from Poland as in the corresponding period of 2017," the analysts said.
Last year, most blueberries went to EU countries, mainly Great Britain (2,700 tons, 40 percent of export volume), Germany (1,600 tons, 24 percent) and Sweden (500 tons, 8 percent). Outside the EU, fruits were sent to Norway and Switzerland (100 tons each, 2 percent). In 2018, 96 percent of all exports were sold on the EU market.
The Analysis and Strategy Office of KOWR estimates that "in the coming years a further increase in blueberry exports can be expected". Southeast Asian and other European countries will be prospective markets.
Blueberries are becoming increasingly more popular, as consumers, including children, are very keen on them, which means that their consumption will increase in the coming years. However, the growth is inhibited by the price, which is relatively high at the moment, although each year blueberries are becoming cheaper.
As noted by KOWR analysts, despite estimates of a large harvest in 2019, blueberry prices are currently at a high level. In mid-July this year, wholesale blueberries cost from 11 to 22 PLN (2.85 to 5.70 USD) per kilogram, against 12-24 PLN (3.11 to 6.22 USD) per kilogram in the previous week. Wholesale market prices in mid-July this year were similar to those recorded a year ago.
According to Dominika Kozarzewska, president of Association of Fruit Producers “Polskie Jagody” (“Polish Blueberries”), blueberry producers haven’t reported any major losses due to early spring frosts, thus the harvest is expected to be better than last year. But because of early harvest, Polish producers had to compete on the international market with those from Serbia, Romania, Portugal and Italy, which caused a very rapid fall in prices.
The highbush blueberry comes from the U.S. and Canada. It hadn’t been grown in Poland until World War II, but it wasn't very popular at that time and the test crops failed. But as a result of the efforts of breeders and botanists, new blueberry varieties have arisen that are more resistant to diseases and perform well in Polish climatic conditions. The earliest blueberry varieties begin fruiting in July, the latest - in October.