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Ukrainian horticulture and sweets exporters look to Middle East

Walnuts
28/03/2019

Business-to-business – or B2B – meetings with carefully selected buyers and suppliers are an effective way to promote exports. Suppliers, ready with custom designed proposals and the necessary logistics and certifications in place, can meet at least ten potential clients in just a matter of hours.

At today’s Middle East Trade Forum and B2B meetings in Dubai, around 40 of Ukraine’s top exporters of honey, chocolate, confectionery, walnuts, fruits and vegetables met with Middle East importers, distributors, food industry suppliers and supermarket chains.

The event, hosted by the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry, was organized by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the EBRD and the European Union under EU4Business initiative of the EU.

It was supported by the Government of Ukraine, the Ukrainian Confectionery Industry Association, the Ukrainian Honey Exporters Association and the Ukrainian Horticultural Association.

For Oleksander Zhemoyda, General Director of the Directorate of Strategic Planning and European Integration in Ukraine, the combination of quality, taste and competitive pricing makes Ukraine attractive to buyers. 

“Ukraine is the ‘breadbasket of Europe’. We have some of the world’s most fertile black soils and a unique climate that enables us to grow premium quality fruits and vegetables that are healthy and delicious. We can also ship almost anywhere competitively, thanks to our access to deep water ports in the Black Sea and the many direct flights to major Middle East cities, including Dubai,” he said.

Becoming an agricultural powerhouse

In recent years, FAO, the EBRD and the EU under its EU4Business initiative, have been helping Ukrainian producers tap into new international markets. Their support has covered everything from comprehensive market data and price analyses to training on market access requirements, logistics and business negotiations.

Thanks in part to these efforts, Ukraine has increased its dairy, meat, fruit, berry, flour and honey exports, especially to Asia, and is becoming one of Europe’s fastest growing horticulture exporters. 

In just a couple of years, the country has gone from exporting its premium-quality apples to one country to now shipping to some 40 countries. And it is a major exporter of fresh and frozen berries, many of them organically certified.  

Ukraine is also the largest European exporter of walnuts, quickly catching up to the United States, Mexico and Chile.

The country boasts a rich sweets-making tradition dating back to the 19th century, producing the essential raw ingredients for confectionery on a large scale.

Understanding the trends in the fruit and sweets trade in the Middle East can give Ukrainians a better idea of the demands of that market, said FAO Economist Andriy Yarmak.

“Most of the Ukrainian suppliers are halal, HACCP and Global G.A.P. certified and many have EU organic certification. Their products are meeting international food quality and safety standards, and all of our participants speak English and have been trained in how to trade with the Middle East, which builds trust with wholesalers, retailers and consumers and opens up new avenues,” he said.

“In addition to top notch quality, the prices for Ukrainian products are very competitive because the costs of inputs, energy, labour and land are relatively low,” Yarmak added.

Business-to-business

During the B2B meetings, Ukrainian suppliers were able to showcase their goods and discuss opportunities with buyers.

For Oleksandr Baldyniuk, Head of the Ukrainian Confectionery Association, this networking proved invaluable.

“It was amazing to meet so many potential clients under one roof. They could see and taste our products and get a sense of what we can offer. Ukraine’s presence in different regional markets is really expanding,” he said.

A few weeks prior to the Trade Forum, FAO and the EBRD supported the participation of 11 small and medium enterprises in one of the largest Asian food shows – FOODEX Japan 2019. There, Ukrainian producers were able to exhibit their products at the first ever national Ukrainian pavilion.

These two events were the latest in ongoing efforts by the organizations to help Ukrainian agribusinesses access new markets and increase export volumes – a trend likely to continue.

Photo credit Marco Verch via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)