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Ukraine and the Netherlands: berry cooperation with a bitter taste of war

In this interview to the trade journal "Yahidnyk" the Ukrainian representative of Fresh Forward Holding BV Anton Dovhanyuk tells about current situation in Ukraine, the links between Dutch and Ukrainian fruit and berry sector and possibilities for further beneficial cooperation.

Berries from Ukraine. The best source! Beeld: ©Agravery /
Berries from Ukraine. The best source! Beeld: ©Agravery /

What has changed in the relationship between Ukraine and Dutch agribusinesses during the war in Ukraine? A lot has changed during last months in fruit and berry sector, both countries are currently experiencing significant losses. I work in the horticultural sector for a long time already and I see, for example, the decrease in sales of certified planting material from the Netherlands to Ukraine. A number of potential projects are suspended now. Due to military activities and uncertainty about further situation on the market, Ukrainian strawberry nurseries now grow less plants and fewer Dutch varieties. High exchange rate and expensive logistics has a negative impact on exports of seedlings to Ukraine. It became more difficult to manage the propagation licenses of the varieties, PVR enforcement etc. At the same time, Dutch companies help their Ukrainian partners as much as they can. For example, SVZ International BV helps its Ukrainian partners with export of frozen berries, Dutch breeders don’t require payment of royalties for the period of martial law, other companies employ Ukrainian refuges for seasonal work etc.

The Dutch horticultural sector is well-known with its innovations. Despite military actions that negatively affect the world economy, are there any projects running in Ukraine at the moment? If so, what are they?

Of course, Dutch producers and processors continue to work on new products and explore new markets. Dutch breeders proceed with registration of new varieties in Ukraine and running trials here. Due to the global energy crisis and rising prices on crop protection and fertilizers, more attention is paid now to resistant varieties that require less applications of synthetic pesticides.

Good example is the activities of the company Solynta. Despite the current difficulties to import their true potato seeds in Ukraine they succeeded to set up trials of two hybrid potato varieties in Vinnytsia region. This type of seed potato production can substantially reduce delivery costs and simplify phytosanitary control in future.

What Ukrainian products are currently interesting for the Dutch business? What are the most promising Dutch products for Ukraine?

Ukrainian berries, fresh and frozen, are usually of high demand in EU. Strawberry, raspberry, cherries, currants, also wild berries like rosehips, elderberries, wild blueberries are always interesting for Dutch processors and traders. This season will be very challenging for the wild berries segment since in the regions of Ukraine which were under occupation or where the military actions took place there is a restriction to visit forests due to the mining and big number of unexploded shells. Along with conventional products there is a steady interest to organic berries. Global organic market and Ukrainian share in it is growing from year to year, according to Rabobank. This Dutch bank, by the way, showed great support to Ukrainian refuges in the Netherlands in opening free bank accounts as well as by not charging any fees for transactions to Ukraine by private individuals. Some Dutch businesses that operate in Central and Eastern Europe, offer Ukrainian refuges seasonal jobs in berry production and processing companies.

Dutch agro-consultancy has great potential for development in Ukraine. Companies like Delphy can successfully provide advisory services to local farmers especially those who export their products to international markets. The niche of fruit and berry consultancy is quite open in Ukraine.

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