The forecasts indicate the development of the blueberry market in Romania over the next few years. The growers are planning to invest more money on sorting and packing machines.
Blueberry cultivation in Romania is expected to see a big boom over the next couple of years on the back of EU funding. Growers there will be reimbursed by 90% on the investments they make to improve their operations. The funds will be used for things such as building a new warehouse, machinery, tractors, trucks in order to start building a big operation.
“We expect the Romanian market to grow a lot in the next couple of years,” shared Maciej Chmielewski from Milbor, a European distributor of packing and sorting equipment for the fruit and vegetable industry.
Maciej Chmielewski from Milbor, representing Weco/A&B Lakewood at this year’s Fruit Attraction in Madrid.
“Although blueberry production in Romania is still on a smaller scale, with most plantations averaging around 10 to 40 hectares, many producers have been looking to expand to up to 100 hectares. The production area currently totals less than 300 hectares, but scientists have said that based on soil analysis and acidity, there is potential in the future to reach up to 1,500 hectares.”
The Romanian blueberry harvest starts in early/mid June and finishes in the middle of September. The most common varieties grown there are Duke, Bluecrop and Eliot.
Growers need to band together
There is no association for blueberry growers in Romania at the moment where they can meet once or twice a year to exchange knowledge and talk about selling and growing, leaving them very segmented.
“Romanian growers are really still in the beginning stages. They need to learn the best methods on how to grow blueberries, the quality is not up to the level it should be since they have only been busy for the last 5 to 6 years. On a recent trip when we asked growers about the climate differences throughout the country, they couldn’t reply and only knew the areas around them. I think that it is of utmost importance that they build an association so they can share knowledge.” said Maciej.
Machinery good solution to worker shortage
Milbor PMC is responsible for the distribution of machines throughout the UK, Netherlands, Germany, Italy, Austria, Spain and Morocco and is interested in entering the emerging Romanian market.
“Most likely it will be the exporters who invest in the new machinery in the beginning, with many of the local growers sending smaller volumes to a larger company for sorting and distribution. Growers recently started exporting smaller volumes here and there to forwarders, but they don’t have enough volumes to supply directly to the larger chains. I think that automatisation in Romania is posed to happen even faster than in Poland, with the advantage of having all of the modern equipment from the beginning.”
Production growth in Romania will not be without its challenges. Land is very expensive to acquire and there is a worker shortage for people wanting to pick and sort blueberries.
“Everyone tells me that they would like to buy machines because of them having difficulties finding people. A lot of money is lost teaching workers how to pick the berries, and they often make a lot of mistakes. Alongside that, workers are expensive and don’t want to work, which is the same situation to what we have here in Poland.” concludes Maciej.