The Success Story of Kosovo’s Blueberry Industry
May 2, 2024

Since its commercial inception in 2012, the blueberry industry in Kosovo has exhibited a steady and noteworthy growth trajectory. From humble beginnings of just 10 hectares planted in 2012, Kosovo now boasts an impressive 150 hectares dedicated to blueberry cultivation, yielding approximately 700 tons annually. This expansion is underpinned by Kosovo's unique advantages in blueberry production, notably its favorable agro-climatic conditions which are conducive to high-quality harvests. Additionally, Kosovo enjoys a strategic market positioning, with its blueberry harvest reaching markets at least 20 days before competitors in Eastern and Central Europe, offering lucrative marketing opportunities. Blueberry farming in Kosovo stands out for its profitability, offering farmers a higher return on investment compared to other agricultural crops. Low production costs and the ability to access premium markets contribute to the success of blueberry farming in Kosovo. The burgeoning demand for blueberries, both domestically and internationally, further enhances the favorable market conditions, solidifying blueberry farming as a lucrative venture for Kosovo's agricultural sector.

“The 2023 blueberry season was very successful in terms of production, with a 15% increase compared to 2022. Despite climate changes and challenges related to pricing, we managed to achieve significant growth in volume,” says Kujtim Lepaja, Executive Director of National Berry Association - Raspberry of Kosovo.

“Each year we see an increase in new plantings of about 20 hectares. In the spring of 2024, we plan to plant at least 20 more hectares with blueberries. This gradual but consistent growth underscores the steady development of blueberry cultivation in Kosovo, solidifying our position as a reliable contributor in the European market landscape,” Kujtim says.

Blueberry production in Kosovo is concentrated in Peja and Podujeva, with Peja focusing on early cultivars and Podujeva on late cultivars. These regions host around 50% of Kosovo's blueberry orchards. The dominant varieties include DUKE (50%), Liberty (25%), and Aurora (10%), with others like Legacy, Hyron, Draper, Spartan, Last Call, Cargo, and Blue Ribbon also cultivated. Almost all production (99.5%) takes place in open fields, with only 0.50 hectares in greenhouses.

Source IBO

Source IBO

Source IBO

“Kosovo remains competitive in the blueberry industry by focusing on high-quality production and strategic market positioning. The country produces approximately 700 tons of blueberries, with around 80% exported. Until 2022, the majority was exported to the Netherlands. However, starting from 2023, 40% of the production is exported to Albania. This shift is significant as

Albania does not cultivate blueberries, and with over 10 million tourists from around the world spending their summer there, the market potential is substantial. Thus, when facing low prices in Europe and competition from Poland and Ukraine, Kosovo’s blueberry exports to Albania present a lucrative opportunity due to the country’s large market size,” says Kujtim.

Source: Agronometrics Global Trade Data

Source: Agronometrics Global Trade Data

Up until 2023, the blueberry industry in Kosovo mainly depended on its internal workforce. Even with the implementation of a liberalization visa in January 2024 which allows Kosovo passport holders to travel to the EU without a visa, it is expected that the blueberry sector will encounter no significant challenges in securing labor.

In terms of water availability, Kosovo benefits from ample water sources for blueberry irrigation, primarily sourced from rivers, streams, and underground reservoirs. The country's mountainous terrain contributes significantly to its abundant water resources. Moreover, Kosovo's moderate continental climate ensures well-distributed rainfall throughout the year, further guaranteeing reliable water availability for blueberry cultivation.

“The blueberry orchards in Kosovo are modern, with new areas being planted with cultivars demanded by the European market. The cultivation technology is on par with Dutch blueberry orchards, including planting methods, cultivar selection, high-quality plants, pest management systems, anti hail systems, smart irrigation and fertilization systems and digital platforms for farm management and data analysis. These advancements help improve productivity, quality, and sustainability in blueberry cultivation in Kosovo,” says Kujtim.

“Given our focus on exporting blueberries to Europe, we frequently encounter price fluctuations. We enjoy two highly profitable weeks in the first two weeks of June, when we export at premium prices ranging from 5 to 6 euros per kilogram. However, as other European countries such as Poland, Ukraine, and Romania enter their production seasons, export prices tend to decline, impacting the profitability and market accessibility for our farmers. Consequently, from the third week of June until mid-July, export prices often plummet to below 3 euros per kilogram,” Kujtim adds.

Over the past decade, there has been a notable emphasis on promoting blueberries in Kosovo, encompassing both cultivation and consumption endeavors. Various initiatives have been implemented to educate the population about the benefits of blueberries, resulting in a significant surge in domestic demand. Annually, blueberries are prominently featured during Berry Week in Kosovo, complemented by agricultural television programs, social media campaigns, and educational activities in elementary schools.

Looking ahead, Kujtim envisions a promising future buoyed by favorable climatic conditions. Kosovo's unique production window, particularly during the early weeks of June, presents a distinct advantage over European counterparts. Moreover, robust demand from neighboring Albania, coupled with the appeal to foreign tourists, further enhances the industry's prospects. The enduring success story of blueberries has garnered attention within the country, prompting the Ministry of Agriculture to recognize the importance of supporting the expanding blueberry farming sector. With steadfast momentum, the industry is poised for continued growth and prosperity.


Source: Agronometrics