A volatile summer for Eastern Europe's frozen berry deal

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A volatile summer for Eastern Europe's frozen berry deal

A German frozen fruit company with processing facilities in Poland is coming toward the end of what has been a very hectic berry deal in Eastern Europe, marked by strawberry shortages and too many wild blueberries.

Andreas Pijahn of Allfood says strawberries are one of his company's most important products, and when the Polish deal started in June everything was actually quite calm.

"After one week or so suddenly prices went up a lot and then the voices were more and more that there was not enough fruit in the markets, especially the pressing factories and purée factories which were not getting enough product," he says.

Pijahn says this is even though many factories were saying prior to the harvest that they had enough stocks for six months.

"So after one week of the crop everybody was running after the crop and the crop only lasts three or four weeks...prices for IQF (Instant Quick Freezing) strawberries went up from €1 to €1.50 in just a few weeks.

He says this happened because there was 20-30% less fruit in the fields, but there was also a great deal of competition from the processing industry.

"Maybe there is still enough product for the current demand but there are just so many people fighting for the product in a very short time of the harvest – only three or four weeks of harvest is what you have time for," he says.

"You have your capacity and you have to produce something during these weeks, and that kind of competition made it increase so much."

He says the situation for European wild blueberries, known as Vaccinium myrtillus or bilberries, has been the complete opposite.

"Blueberries are still in a very extreme situation also," he says of the fruit, which are a cousin of the North American blueberry with a similar appearance but a different flavor and aroma.

"I have never experienced such a situation, nor have my colleagues which have more experience. The price of raw materials decreased so much, especially from the Ukraine.

"I heard that in the Ukraine they’re receiving raw material at 80 euro cents only, which is really nothing for the pickers, and the prices of the ready product or Class 1, or if you compare it to North American or South American or grade A product, has decreased a lot."

He says this state of affairs may relate to the political situation in the Ukraine prompting more people to forage for an income.

"It just has a much more intensive aroma, as it always is when you have something from the forest.

"It’s an intensive aroma and color, and smell – if you go to the markets here in Munich they have the wild blueberries from the Bavarian forests even. You can smell them from 10 meters away."

He adds the company is also freezing sour cherries at the moment from Europe's two leading producers, Poland and Serbia.

"This year it seems we have a large crop - quality is not that good, but the volumes are quite big so we expect we will have the crop until the end of the week and there’s enough product.

"Serbia is after Poland the second biggest producer in Europe, and both had quite a good crop."

Photo: www.shutterstock.com


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