Berry production: the industry’s problems and prospects in 2021

Agroinvestor magazine published an article devoted to the most prominent problems of berry production in 2021. Among the invited experts to express their opinion on this issue was Larisa Yerina, the Head of the Sales Department of ECO-Culture holding.

This year’s harvest was expected to increase significantly compared to last season. At the same time, however, according to experts, the expectations are unlikely to be met. The reason is simple – the shortage of personnel. Before, it was migrant workers who harvested crops in the open ground and tunnel greenhouses, but this year that staff resource turned out to be limited. The situation was foreseen by some producers who reduced the area of berry crop cultivation in advance.

The harvesting of strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and buckthorn berries is still going on, but it is already clear that the yields will not exceed last year’s level. At the same time, weather conditions in 2021 were much better – there were no major droughts or frosts. Still, the lack of the right amount of labor made a difference leading to a lack of domestic berries on the shelves this year. Another factor that contributed to the harvest reduction was a significant rise in the price for fertilizers, materials for the construction of greenhouses, packaging, as well as other associated commodities. All this inevitably led to an increase in retail prices for berries.

Nowadays, fresh berries can be bought year-round in Russia thanks to the constant supply of imported products. In addition, there are more and more enterprises in Russia that cultivate berry crops in greenhouses. This year alone, several new greenhouse projects have been launched in the country. The technology of tunnel cultivation of raspberries is becoming more and more popular, which is another positive trend in the industry. Whereas previously Russian raspberries almost never made it to store shelves due to inadequate quality, today “tunnel” berries began to appear in retail chains with increasing frequency.

According to Larisa Yerina, Russian agrarians today face the problem of replacing about a million tons of imported berries and fruits. But so far most of such products in Russia are produced by small farms and grown outdoors. The strong dependence of the harvest on external factors makes supplies to stores unstable. At the same time, there is a persistent trend in the world market to switch from outdoor to greenhouse cultivation. This way, products of consistently high quality can be produced all year round, which makes it possible to enter into long-term contracts with retail chains. These days, the largest segment of the market is occupied by strawberries. Meanwhile, raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries show good dynamics as well. The trend for healthy eating and avoidance of sugar has opened another niche for entrepreneurs, which is the production of berry snacks.

In Russia, the greenhouse cultivation of berry crops is developing extremely slowly. This can be explained by the low financing of the industry – investors don’t seem to have confidence that the domestic consumer is ready to steadily afford berries grown in greenhouses. At the same time, it is not clear whether domestic products can compete with their relatively inexpensive Egyptian analogs, which are supplied to Russia during winter. In the meantime, the drop in people’s incomes has already led to the reduction of demand for berries both on the food markets and in the vegetable stalls.

ECO-Culture holding has long-term plans for the construction of berry greenhouse complexes, but so far the projects are only at the development stage. Currently, the company is actively researching the industry of berry production – the market capacity in this direction is far from being used up.

The Head of the Sales Department of the agricultural holding is convinced of the niche’s prospects. The company intends to extrapolate the experience of vegetable production to the cultivation of berries to please the domestic consumer with ecologically clean, tasty, and healthy strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries.

For the full text of the article, please visit the Agroinvestor online magazine’s website.