Despite challenges, Ukraine’s frozen berry sector keeps surging

From Fresh Fruit Portal | 23 May 2024

Exports of frozen berries from Ukraine have experienced year-over-year growth in the last couple of seasons despite tensions from the Covid-19 pandemic and the invasion of Russia in 2022. 

The main destination for frozen berries from Ukraine is the European Union, with Poland representing the highest share of exports. 

Volodymyr Gurzhiy, CEO of USPA Fruit spoke with FreshFruitPortal.com about the current state of the industry in Ukraine, stating that in 2023, the frozen fruit sector in Ukraine exported 87,000 tons. 

“Every year, Ukraine sets records in frozen berry exports,” Gurzhiy said. “We are replacing Poland’s volumes, occupying a new place in the supply chain. In the past, we focused on Poland as the main market, and now we supply to markets that are also supplied by Polish berries.”

Gurzhiy says that some of those new markets include the U.S., which is still considered small in terms of volumes, but he sees great potential in this “premium” market.

“According to the results of the last 12 months, Ukraine entered the top 5 largest suppliers of frozen raspberries to the U.S. market, surpassing all non-American suppliers, except for Serbia, but with larger volumes than Belgium, France, China, and Morocco,” he said.

As European countries remain the main destinations, the CEO of USPA Fruit believes that to grow, producers must diversify their destination markets, looking particularly toward the U.S., Canada, China, Japan Australia, Korea, and Thailand.

Ukraine’s Export Volume of Processed Blueberries to Germany | Cultivated Conventional

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Biggest challenges for the industry

As is the case for most specialized enterprises in Ukraine, the greatest challenge is the ongoing war with Russia. 

“In the conditions of ongoing combat operations and constant bombing of civilian infrastructure, business risks and general uncertainty regarding the economic environment are increasing,” said Gurzhiy. 

He added that the increase in production costs, especially electricity are inevitable at this time. 

Export price drops, like in 2023 when the average price per ton of frozen berries reached $1,519, down from the $2,281 average price in 2022, also affect the industry. 

He added that among the negative trends is also the increase in geopolitical tensions when neighboring countries apply restrictive measures against a list of the agri-crops from Ukraine. “What is the most stressful is that Poland blocks the border,” he said. 

Labor has become another concern as workers in the supply chain have joined the ranks of those fighting in the war. 

“Horticulture is a highly intensive production labor that requires many people, and there is a shortage at the moment,” said Gurzhiy.

Furtheremore, climate change is increasingly leading to early spring, as a result of early flowering and corresponding risks of crop loss due to late spring frosts. Changes in the climate and the war in the East and South of Ukraine are moving the localization of horticulture more and more to the North and West of the country (closer to the borders with the EU).

Ukraine’s Export Volume of Processed Blueberries to Czechia | Cultivated Conventional

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Outlook

Despite multiple challenges, Gurzhiy believes the industry will continue to expand and reach new markets in the near future. 

With raspberries as the top frozen berry exported, volumes are expected to increase in EU countries. 

“Despite the fact that Ukraine is in a state of war and this greatly hinders growth, I would like to end this interview on a positive note and say that Ukraine will win on all fronts,” said Gurzhiy.


The News in Charts is a collection of stories from the industry complemented by charts from Agronometrics to help better tell their story.

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