Late spring rain and cooler weather in Serbia, is making the mainly blueberry producers anxious as they hope to have a good season, which is due to start in two weeks’ time. According to Sladjana Vuković, CEO of the Serbian exporting company Srbovoće: “Some blueberry producers might start a bit earlier or later, it is a similar case for other berry fruit. The strawberries grown outside struggled a lot. They had problems with rain. Raspberries are starting slowly, there are difficulties to pick it, caused by some wet weather.”
Sladjana Vuković, CEO of the Serbian exporting company Srbovoće
She looks back at the last few seasons, hoping to especially forget last year’s challenges. “Prices paid just covered inputs costs, last year was not a great year. It was difficult in terms of margin. Spain was longer in the market. Two years ago was better. Now we will see what happens this year with Spain that will finish early and with much less volumes there will be a deficit of berries. We expect good prices, but we will see, we have some idea and expectations. We sell on orders, preparing every week for the next week in advance, based on approximate quantities for the season. Every week we talk about quantity and price with our customers. We do not have programs right now. We work on the approximate seasonal demand, then we see what we can do and supply them with, then we arrange the needed volumes. We cannot meet the full demand for programs right now, our season is too short. When you have a short season, because of the high demand in the first weeks the product is expensive. A lot of growers are not ready to go for lower prices with program business. For us it really works better to have weekly prices,” explains Vuković.
As an exporting company Srbovoće has a combined 120 hectares from supplying producers. Some have newly planted while others have plantings that are somewhere in-between, with not everything that is in full production yet. Their suppliers’ farms are situated around the Belgrade area and central Serbia with a smaller amount in the west and south east of the country says Sladjana.
“I am a producer myself together with my partner we gather producers together. Right now we are focused mainly on blueberries with some raspberries and blackberries. Our main market is the UK, where we started and have been growing there every year. We reached the Netherlands, Germany and Spain last year. We will continue on these markets while we are going to expand in Poland. We are in talks with countries who are closer in the region like Hungary, Croatia and Czechia.”
“We started with a few trucks in the first year and have been increasing every year. Last year we harvested about 300 tons, this season we hope to maybe reach 60% more. Because our growers are growing in volume we are exporting more. Serbia is young as a blueberry producer. My plantation is only eight years old with those of other producers only planted two to four years ago. While we are very young our blueberries volumes are expanding quickly. As a young company we do not have huge volumes, but we are planning to do more. That is because we are seeing more demand.”
As Vuković turns to her visitors from the UK who are busy with orchard visits, she closes by saying she hopes for a good year, despite a rainy build up to the harvest season. “Considering the year looks difficult, the weather is not helping, let’s try to do our best both for growers and buyers, given the situation. It was not a grower’s year last year, I hope this year they will get a bit more.”