Polish Blueberry Cooperative about soft fruit market in Poland

Season for soft fruit has just begun in Poland. What are the predictions for the blueberries in Poland? We asked Dominika Kozarzewska from the Polish Berry Cooperative (Grupa Producentów Owoców „Polskie Jagody” Sp. z o.o.) to share her perspective.

blauwe bessen
©Murawska

ABB: Frost, lack of water supported only slightly with rain. Can the Polish consumers count on the Polish berry this year?

Dominika Kozarzewska: Frost was indeed a certain problem in this sector. We don’t know exact numbers but losses are visible, covered plants however survived in a good condition. Seasonal frost last week caused some damage as well. Generally speaking cherries were hit the most with this frost, for blueberries loses will be minor.

ABB: Other sectors of soft fruit are lacking labor needed to pick the fruit. Do berry producers recognize the same problem?

DK: Not really. Some Ukrainians remained, more are coming back and they have been partly replaced by employees from further countries (e.g. Nepal, African countries) who lost their jobs in other production facilities. Many companies which have stopped production are taking initiatives and call berry producers to find jobs for their employees. It seems that Ukrainians shouldn’t have gone back home but they did due to unclear regulations in Ukraine (they did not know whether they would be allowed back in Ukraine if they prolong stay in Poland). Poles are not ideal workers to perform fieldworks, as they are no longer used to this type of work, involving heat, insects, etc. Some Polish producers have actually prepared ‘plan B’ which was to pick berries with machines. However implementing such plan would mean slow sorting afterwards and huge fruit losses during the harvest. It now seems that it will not be necessary.

Dominika Kozarzewska
©Grupa Polskie Jagody
Dominika Kozarzewska

ABB: Considering corona crisis and economic situation of Polish consumers, are Polish producers afraid of the lack of soft fruit demand?

DK: Strawberries are very expensive this year, we’re not sure about berries yet, but food generally speaking is becoming more expensive. For now there are no signals of this kind, we hope after lockdown consumers will desire fresh fruits, especially in the summer time. Demand will depend on the depth of the crisis, and problems on the labor market in the whole Europe. In the UK for example there is no difference noted in demand for bio products.

ABB: Polish Berries cooperate with other producers’ groups abroad. In Polish stores there is possibility to buy berries originating from other countries. Will blueberries of Polish origin be available on the other markets?

DK: We will as usual be supplying blueberries to a number of European countries.

ABB: Are there any additional procedures introduced as the result of pandemic?

DK: Polish Food producers have met very high hygienic standards already. Additionally, Polish Ministry of Agriculture and National Hygienic Institute introduced obligation to wear gloves and masks when picking fruit on the fields.

ABB: Thank you.

Dominika Kozarzewska - since 10 years president of the Board of Polish Berry Cooperative. Initiated branch integration, was one of the founding fathers of Polish Berry Cooperative. Since 2017 is Board Member of Foundation for Polish Berry Promotion.

Daria Idsardi & Agnieszka Murawska