Seeing an opportunity, Strawberry Producer Grows Business as Others Hunker Down

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Friday, December 10, 2021
Andrii Matiichyk, the executive partner at Berry Commerce, says that COVID-19 was a powerful motivator to keep the business afloat.

While many businesses perceived the COVID-19 pandemic as a threat, Berry Commerce, the largest greenhouse system for strawberry farming in Ukraine, saw opportunities. While other businesses suffered, they found ways to develop new partnerships and sales markets. Today, consumers in foreign markets such as the Baltic States, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and Italy  can enjoy Berry Commerce strawberries.

Andrii Matiichyk, the executive partner at Berry Commerce, says that COVID-19 was a powerful motivator to keep the business afloat. “We had two options – either to give up or to roll up our sleeves and work to maintain what we had invested so much energy and resources in. We love the work we’ve been doing. We did not start this business to give up because of some unforeseen circumstances,” he explained.

To keep itself afloat, the company, which has grown strawberries in the village of Vyshniaky for five years, joined the Virtual Trade (VTrade) Fruit and Berry initiative. The Ukrainian Berries Association launched VTrade during the pandemic to help Ukrainian fruit and berry producers weather the crisis. The initiative helps berry producers in various ways. It monitors the situation to promote sales, sustain trade, and maintain logistics. It updates member companies about global changes and trends in key markets. It uses online platforms and virtual tools to market Ukrainian berries, fruits, and vegetables. Finally, it nurtures direct online links between market stakeholders and business contacts with potential domestic and international customers. Thanks to VTrade, Berry Commerce found new international partners and export opportunities.  

While Berry Commerce had previously presented its products at international trade shows in Europe, VTrade helped to organize the company’s online participation in the Macfrut Trade Show, an annual international fruit and vegetable sector event held in Rimini, Italy. The Macfrut Trade Show opened up opportunities, resulting in successful negotiations with three European partners – two in Italy and one in the United Kingdom. Berry Commerce also reached an agreement on a business exchange with a British strawberry supplier to visit, share processes, and learn from one another.

Despite the impact of COVID-19, Berry Commerce considers 2020 a success as it led to export growth, with export sales volumes reaching more than 200 tons of strawberries per season. Exports to the United Arab Emirates alone increased by 40 percent. Andrii has no doubt that it was the pandemic that prompted them to explore new opportunities: “In hard times, you uncover your potential and learn to look at things differently. At least, that is what happened to us. I am not sure if we could have achieved such export volumes in any ‘normal’ year.” 

Companies like Berry Commerce are being supported throughout Ukraine with funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development through its Competitive Economy Program (CEP).

Last updated: December 10, 2021

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