In Ukraine, getting fruit and vegetables from the fields to the table is extra challenging amid COVID-19 – from restrictions on movement to high transport costs and closed markets. The sector is also facing big changes in demand and prices. While the prices of some products are skyrocketing, especially those thought to boost immunity like lemons and garlic, others are plummeting.
Real-time access to market information is crucial. To help fruit and vegetable producers navigate this new situation, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and FAO have stepped up their efforts to provide data on evolving market realities.
“Fruits and vegetables are extremely perishable and need to get to the market as quickly as possible. But trade opportunities are limited because everything in the value chain got disrupted, markets closed, countries restricted border crossings, ports shut down, transportation costs increased, and so on,” FAO economist Andriy Yarmak said.
He explained that FAO and EBRD are trying to provide, via widely used platforms and policy dialogue, the most up-to-date market information possible to producers and agribusinesses, mainly from but not limited to Georgia, Moldova, Tajikistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan.
Yarmak added that the idea is “to limit as best we can the losses that will affect the entire supply chain, which are likely to be substantial despite our efforts.”
Apart from adjusting to changing demand, fruit and vegetable producers need to find solutions to concrete production and distribution challenges. In countries that do not have enough people to pick fruit and vegetables in time, produce could rot in the fields. Fresh produce could also spoil in containers if there are shipping and offloading delays.
Some producers are facing these challenges with ingenuity, reinventing distribution and sales channels. Online sales and home deliveries are booming, Yarmak pointed out, even though they still only represent a fraction of sales.