The Polish blueberry season has had to deal with some serious hits when it comes to the weather. The early spring frosts have ensured lesser supply of the early harvest, which in turn could make the price jump up a bit.
Blueberry exporters in Poland might have mixed feelings about the season. According to Damian Kozlowski, sales manager for Ewa-Bis, the weather has made things difficult for the start of the season. But at the same time the quality of the berries that survived is up to par: “The current blueberry season looks to be very challenging due to early spring frost damage. However, we have a lot of crops and the quality seems to be outstanding. Berries are bigger than last year and healthy. The main challenge in the past years have been to produce enough blueberries as to respond to the needs of the market. Demand has been always greater than supply. Nevertheless, there are more and more producers in Poland every year, and so volumes are still growing as time goes on. On top of that, producers constantly introduce and refine new technologies for growing and storing picked berries to extend the season. Blueberries from other European countries, such as Spain and Portugal have always filled the Polish season gap.”
The frost in Poland could have a longer effect over the course of the season, Kozlowski explains. “The frost damage reduced the crop of early varieties by approximately 30 to 40% and the cold summer has moved the main part of the season forward. Therefore, the harvest has been slightly delayed, but by no more than two weeks. At the moment Polish blueberries are already reaching destinations and are doing well, but the market share balance has changed. It will depend on the weather situation in late July and the start of August whether the sales have picked up.”
Thanks to their experience in the apple market, it’s been easier to enter markets with their blueberries. “Our brand Grupa Owoce Natury is growing with exports to markets that we have gained over the past years through our apples, as such we expect to export larger volumes of blueberries than last year. We still see the European market as the most important one. However, the blueberries grown in Poland are very popular around the world, as Poland is one of the key blueberry producer in Europe. Next to exporting to the European countries, we also ship blueberries to the Middle East and Asian countries via air transport. Demand will be increasing during this season.” Kozlowski says.
The global situation in regards to the pandemic could leave its mark on the prices of blueberries this year as well, Kozlowski explains. Not only is it expensive to produce the soft fruit, but getting the labor required has been a tough challenge: “The cost of producing blueberries is higher than it is for most other fruits. The berries require special soil, and the storage of the picked blueberries in cool conditions right after its harvest adds to the end price. Moreover, the price of the work hour for fruit pickers has increased, due to the lack of availability of workforce from Ukraine. This is naturally due to the international mobility restrictions in regards to the Coronavirus pandemic. This fact, along with the lower early season volumes will surely result in an increase of the price of the blueberry, when compared to last year’s season.”
“The main goal of Grupa Ewa-Bis, which the Grupa Owoce Natury company also belongs to, is to sell healthy and tasty Polish fruit. That’s why we are paying so much attention to blueberries at this point in time. Blueberries are considered a source of health and wellness by many. Indicative is to consider that in many countries blueberries are even consumed as a medicinal product. Polish blueberries respond very well to the health expectations of the end consumer, since Polish producers have great experience in growing blueberries and consumption of blueberries is growing also in Poland.” Kozlowski concludes.