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May 23 2006, 00:00 Agrarian Marketing Project

Private/Public Partnership Promotes the "Salads" Sector in Ukraine

The Agricultural Marketing Project (AMP) in Ukraine, in close cooperation with its client firms Olvita, and Rijk Zwaan; and, the Kyiv National Agricultural University (KNAU) of Ukraine organized the international practical seminar "Salads of Ukraine 2006".  The seminar was held December 8, 2005 at the campus of the KNAU.  The event was chaired by Dr. Zinovyi Sych, head, vegetable production department of KNAU.  More than 100 produce business specialists from 7 countries (Ukraine, Russia, Netherlands, Germany, Moldova Georgia, and the USA) participated in this event, as did many young aspiring fruit and vegetable specialists studying at the University.    

The salad (leafy vegetables) sector of Ukraine is still in its infancy because it was not a sector that received substantial attention under the former Soviet System of agriculture.  This in part could have been attributed to the fact that salads require careful handling through the system from producer to consumer, and it was much easier to handle crops that were less sensitive such as - red beets, carrots, potatoes, cabbage, and the like.  But, now the sector is gaining in popularity and it is believed to offer substantial opportunity over the next few years.

In fact, Dr. Robert Lee, Director of AMP, stated the size of the world salad market is about $10.5 billion. China produces more than half of the gross volume and the USA and China combined provide for about 70% of the world's salad (leafy vegetable) production.  Ukraine’s salad market has only started to develop and in Dr. Lee's opinion, it will grow dynamically in the near future.  "Even if Ukrainians eat half the salads of people in the US, this market will reach a volume of 300 thousand tons, compared to the 6,000 tons of salads produced now.  There is tremendous room for expansion, Dr. Lee stated."

During the seminar professionals shared information about the specifics of production technologies, handling, storage and packaging of fresh salads, which are popular worldwide.  The participants received valuable and exclusive information related to the potential for fresh salads in Ukraine - how to produce for the market; how to properly handle product; and, once produced, how to ensure the consumer receives the highest quality product and the producer/trader the greatest returns for the expenditures made.  A key note speaker, invited by AMP, at the event was Dr. Marita Cantwell; a representative from the University of California (Davis).  Dr. Cantwell provided a very practical presentation on newest post harvest handling methods for fresh produce.  Guests at the conference found this a most informative discussion.

The event provided an opportunity for Professors from KNAU to share new developments being worked on by KNAU.  It gave them a chance to gain new insights into the developments in other countries.  These experiences help the Professors learn and appreciate new ways that they can be helpful to the industry and their students.  The KNAU was extremely proud to have participated in this first such event in Ukraine.  It gave them a chance to be center stage and share substantial practical information about newest trends and technologies of lettuce production and marketing.  

Olvita, a key private sector supporter of the event, is one of the most dynamically developing companies in the Ukrainian produce business.  First and foremost, it is known for frozen vegetables, fruits and berries sold under the "Olvita" trademark.  But, Olvita has recently entered the market of fresh salads with its very own trademark, as this market is considered to be very attractive to them.  The company owns a complex of modern storage facilities, some older and refurbished and some new with the latest in handling equipment and facilities for effective long-term produce storage.  These facilities help Olvita to be a leading participant in the wholesale trading of fresh fruits and vegetables to meet the rapidly growing demand from Ukrainian supermarkets.  Mr. Yuri Boguslavskiy, Olvita Director, indicated they plan to significantly increase storage capacity for fresh produce.  In addition, they plan to build a complex for the post harvest handling and packing of salads, which will be supplied by farmers from different regions throughout Ukraine.  Olvita is in the process of constructing a pre-cut salads packaging facility that will be launched into operation during 2006.

After the seminar Olvita, in conjunction with Rijk Zwaan, organized and financed a study tour for ten of the best salads farmers from Ukraine to Spain and Netherlands.  The main objective of the trip was to train farmers in the newest production technologies of lettuce growing as well as modern post harvest handling and logistic issues related to leafy vegetables.  Of the ten participating farmers four are AMP’s clients.   

It should be pointed out that there are professional producers of fresh salads in Ukraine and the number is growing each year, despite the fact that salad production is a complicated business. Ukraine also exports fresh salads to Russia.  The climate of Ukraine allows farmers to produce leafy vegetables in different regions of the country and to produce throughout the entire season.  This is why the potential to increase salad production is not limited by the domestic market demand. According to estimates of AMP, in the next five years the Ukrainian salad market could increase to between $50-60 million.  This provides fantastic opportunities for farmers and other market players.

All participants emphasized their satisfaction with the good organization of the event and with the professionalism of the speakers.  It is events like this between the Private and Public Sector that help build valuable support relationships that will help to integrate the farming community with the trading and processing community.  And, this combined relationship will promote strong growth in the leafy vegetables sector of Ukraine and help to increase profits for farmers, traders, processors and retailers.  

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