Four European soft fruit producers have joined forces to create European Berry Growers (EBG) in a bid to conquer the Asian market.
Together, Dar Blue from Croatia, Polish Berry Cooperative, Spain’s Frutas Naturales and Portugal’s Acegrow cover the January to September production window, which they supplement with South African fruit in order to be able to supply customers throughout the whole year.
Dominika Kozarzewska of Polish Berry Cooperative said the impetus for the new venture came from her previous experience as exhibitors at Asia Fruit Logistica.
“Although we had a lot of interest in our fruit, customers were put off by the fact that our supply window was quite short. The Polish season is too short for Asian clients. This is why we decided to work together with growers from Spain, which starts its season in January, and Portugal, where picking starts in May," she told Fruitnet.
"Together with our farms in Croatia and Poland, and due to cooperation with farmers from South Africa, we are able to offer blueberry fruit year-round."
Sergio Sanchez, export sales manager at Frutas Naturales, added: “We have many years of experience in selling to Asian markets, but by working together we can be even more successful here. Our cooperation is based on high standards, ensuring that our clients always receive the best quality fruit”.
The group’s offer will be certified by quality standards including GlobalGAP and BRC, and share common packaging.
“The focus will very much on quality and continuity of supply rather than shipping large volumes,” said Kozarzewska.
The cooperative is the largest project of its kind in Europe, with a total area covering more than 1,400ha.
“Six state-of-the-art packhouses allow us to pack the fruit according to the requirements of the most demanding clients,” said Rui Silva, business development manager of Acegrow.
“We believe that consolidation of growers is the best possible answer to the challenges we are now facing, including growing competition on the blueberry market.”
While China currently remains closed to blueberries from Poland, Spain and Portugal, all three countries have been exploring new opportunities in other Asian markets such as Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea and Vietnam.
European soft fruit exporters are also fixing their sights on India, although the lack of cold chain logistics poses significant challenges for exporters.
Initially, EBG will be a strictly business-to-business collaboration but the three companies did not rule out the eventual development of a joint consumer brand if the venture proves successful.
They also said that they are open to other growers joining the group providing they share the same ethos and commitment to quality.