Every year a number of fruit and vegetables producers in Ukraine increases, areas spread, competition becomes stronger and new social and economic terms in the light of the global pandemic make agribusiness representatives developing new technologies and upgrading company equipment more actively.
Agri-gator found out the exclusive details from Anatoliy Bogdan, Director of Insolar-Kholod, engaged in design, delivery and installation of refrigeration equipment, about which technological solutions will be needed for agriproducers for more successful sale of fruit, berries and vegetables and how to start supplying products with the most profitable price for the producer.
Agri-gator Recent years Ukrainian apple producers have being actively opened new markets for selling their products. Last season Ukraine exported apples to 35 countries of the world, while 1 year earlier the supply geography included only 20 countries. Against the background of such a dynamic development for export of fruit and berries, how rapidly does storage and sorting segment of fresh produce develop in Ukraine?
Anatoliy Bogdan: In my opinion, it develops not fast, but fundamentally. In comparison with previous years, more sorting lines are being installed nowadays. Those producers, who have no means to buy a new line or a line with some special options, buy a pre-owned one or a simpler model. But all the same, this is the choice for modern optical sorters for fruit and vegetables, which are equipped with innovative technical devices making possible to detect and identify the smallest product defects. The same is with cold storages. They had been built in sufficient quantity even before, but the technologies changed substantially.
Nowadays in Ukraine started using CA equipment and building high-quality gas-tight rooms. Let me bring into focus, fruit, especially apple, storage system nowadays develop in a more qualitative manner.
AG: Apple price level for the moment is approaching the historical record. Average wholesale apple prices are around 30 UAH/kg, and products at warehouses of Ukrainian producers are simply over. One of the reasons for the lack of supply at the market is a small quantity of modern industrial storages in Ukraine. Moreover, the situation with a lack of Ukrainian apples supply at the local market in the end of the season is observed from one year to another. Do modern warehouses make possible keeping apple quality within 10-12 months? Which kind of storages is better for this?
Anatoliy Bogdan: Nowadays most of all use Controlled Atmosphere (CA) storages with the ULO technology (Ultra-Low Oxygen from 1 to 3%). With the help of ULO some varieties of apples can be stored from one season to another and even more. When I was in Italy in October, I saw how last year apples were sorting. In Ukraine, thanks to the CA storage, Sady Dnepra dispatched on export highest quality apples even in the beginning of summer. But it should be noted that for such storage period advanced qualitative storages are needed. There are cold storages built as CA storages in Ukraine, but they do not function this way.
AG: Prices for berries and stone fruits are also high enough to date. Of course, a lot of farmers suffered from extreme weather conditions and lost a large part of their crop. But those who could survive through natural cataclysms serious loss-free could make money hand over. Is it an intense interest to berry storages and freezing against the background of high product prices and quit the quarantine observed now?
Anatoliy Bogdan: Here we need to consider 2 variants. The first one is cooling and keeping fresh produce, the second one is freezing and keeping frozen produce. There is a deep interest on freezing, because many understand that with the help of the technological solutions appears a possibility of holding back the products till the more profitable selling terms, but not of selling it off in panic under low price. If talking about fresh berries market, here is not much offers, even less than needed, because not all berries can be stored. For example, storing (garden) strawberries for a long term is unreal, there are some varieties that can be kept only up to one week. As a result, one producer will waste means for the storages and the other one at the same time will grow up fresh garden strawberries and will sell it cheaper from the field. That is why it is more simply to freeze such sensitive berries as raspberries, garden strawberries and frozen it can be selling much longer.
AG: For the segment of fresh berries and stone fruit – how long can be stored products in ideal conditions?
Anatoliy Bogdan: For example, sweet cherries and blueberries can be stored up to 2 months. Red currants can be stored 8 months, but it is impossible to sell it by big lots. It should be noticed, fresh berries storage market is absolutely undeveloped at us. As of the frozen berries market – yes, and it is growing up, it is in demand now.
AG: Based on the short sale period of fresh produce, Ukrainian berry growers actively expand their assortment. In particular, a lot of producers, which were engaged only in berries growing, start growing asparagus, thereby starting their season much earlier. Is it possible to re-equip storages for storing asparagus and other vegetables or is it needed a separate storage and the other approach for special planting?
Anatoliy Bogdan: It is possible to storage, but necessary to meet several phases for keeping high-quality crops. First of all, one of the most important steps in the technology of storage products is pre-cooling as soon as possible after picking-up. If we cool berries (raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, blackberries) with air, the most intensive cooling for such product as asparagus is hydrocooler. Hydrocooler makes possible to cool products during 10-40 minutes with ice water under the temperature 0,5 .. + 10С. In comparison with air cooling, in case of water cooling less fresh produce weight loss is achieved the same as during cooling and further storage in cold rooms. One of the cheap available ways is cooling in common icy water. But people do not storage asparagus in Ukraine till now. Even in Europe this product is seasonal.
AG: Closing of hotels, restaurants and cafes connected with spreading of the COVID made allowances to the fresh produce trading. In particular, European fruit and vegetables producers tell about a lack of refrigerating capacities, because a demand for storing unsold products in cold storages and freezers sharply increased. Can such events give a fresh cycle of development in the segment of industrial storages? Or in connection with the crisis producers, on the contrary, are in no haste to invest in storages?
Anatoliy Bogdan: This is not the first year when our company is engaged in building refrigerating storages for Ukrainian agricultural producers. This season the COVID amended Insolar-Kholod activity – some projects have been suspended. After the quarantine period, in percentage – about 20% of projects are suspended or postponed for a later period and 80% are in progress. Unfortunately, I cannot tell for now that the new cycle is being planned.