Despite lower volumes of blueberries being sent to the United Kingdom, 2019 was a relatively good year for the Polish soft fruit. The industry was not without its challenges though, as acreage is increasing while labor is not available in the large numbers required for this kind of growth.
2019 was a decent year for the Polish blueberries, says Polish Berry Cooperative representative Dominika Kozarzewska. “For blueberries the season was quite good. The Polish Berry Cooperative managed to increase sales in both Poland and the neighboring Eastern European countries, which compensated for lowering volumes exported to the UK this year. Blueberries are growing fast in terms of acreage. However, growers are now realizing that the decreased availability of labour, especially for picking, is going to be a factor limiting this growth. There is also some development in terms of high quality strawberries and raspberries for the fresh market. The area under haskap production is now rather stable, following problems with sales this year. Many growers are discontinuing unprofitable blackcurrant and aronia production.”
Polish Berry Cooperative promotes a lighter version of Polish cuisine at the 2019 Fruit Logistica.
When asked what was the biggest surprise of the year, Kozarzewska said it was amazing to see seven associations of producers putting their heads together for a big marketing campaign. “The fact that we were able to initiate cooperation of 7 associations of producers of berries aimed at joint promotion of strawberries, raspberries, haskap, blueberries, blackcurrants, aronia and kiwi berry was awesome to see. The ‘Time for Polish Superfruit’ campaign was highly successful. In 2020 it will be extended to include gooseberries and blackberries as well as fruit preserves.”
The climate change can be clearly seen in Poland, with the spring frost making it difficult for a lot of fresh produce. However there are also issues when it comes to the use of water during the cultivation. “Water is becoming scarce, so it’s important to switch to water-saving technology like drip irrigation. This is obviously a must on blueberry plantations, but will now become a requirement for successful production of other fresh market berries as well,” Kozarzewska explains. “We have more losses than ever resulting from extreme weather like hail, torrential rain and more, so production under various kinds of covers will grow, as long as it remains profitable enough to allow for further investment.”
PBC’s Jarek Bień talking to the Polish Ambassador in Spain Marzenna Adamczyk at 2019 Fruit Attraction.
For the future, Kozarzewska thinks different approaches should be used to improve the different berries in Poland. “Blueberry producers should continue to focus on quality and high production standards. We also need to look for new options for mechanizing harvest while preserving fruit quality and shelf life. Producers of other berries should direct a part of their production to high quality fresh market, which will require considerable investments and switching to new technologies, or find new, profitable ways of processing the fruit. Last but not least, the promotion of berry consumption will be the key to our success in the future.” Kozarzewska concludes.