Cultivated and wild, from forests or plantations, new and old, traditional and modern varieties, you’ll find it all in Poland. From sweet strawberries, to tarty cherries, crunchy apples, delicate raspberries, purple blueberries, this country in the middle of Europe with broad assortment of fruits, provides for consumers across the world. Mateusz Świętanowski Concentrates, IQF & Puree Sales Manager at Quadrum Foods in Poland tells us more.
Cultivation know-how, often passed from generation to generation, climate and soil conditions, result in vast volumes of fruits grown and harvested, being made available in various forms and shapes as concentrated and NFC juices, frozen, fresh and processed into other products.
Crop to crop, each year producers, processors, suppliers and buyers face similar challenges. Even though those remain similar each time, magnitude of every factor will differ between product and impact it shall bring upon the outcome to the market.
Weather, as always, plays a massive role. We’ve observed in 2020 very clearly, how a prolonged dry period can affect plant development in early stages as well as the damage large rainfall (as it was in May), will lead to poor quality of strawberries. Some producers did not expect grey mould (botrytis) to pose a problem this year, leaving their plantations without required plant protection spraying for the disease. Lower yield of fruit is not necessarily compensated by lower price of raw material.
Looking at strawberry juice concentrate, its clear that prices are not very far away 2019 compared to 2020, yet quality definitely has dropped. Uncertainty is only increased with a typical Poland cold snap, which may lead to even 10°C temperature drop in 24 hours. This phenomenon falls on the 1st half of May, with typically 12th, 13th, 14th and 15th of May being the peak time.
The cold snap is called in humorous fashion ‘Cold Gardeners’ and ‘Cold Sophie’ – after patron saints of those 4 days, it is also referred to as: Eisheiligen in Germany, Saints de glace in France, Ijsheiligen in Holland and Poscana Zofka in Slovenia. Everyone who is anyone in regards to apple juice concentrate, remembers very well 2017 when frost damage in early May, led to an unusually small apple crop and very high price for AJC. Counteraction possibilities are somewhat limited and often expensive. Quadrum Foods` advantage are ample stocks from previous crop as well as long term conrtacts with suppliers, enabling deliveries to cover demand in the transition period between the two harvests.
Information chaos is almost as serious a factor, as weather. Estimation of volume of fruits stored after harvest is finished, usually is a combination of wishful thinking, guessing, trying to influence market to the advantage of buyer or seller respectively. The amount of raw material available is commonly incorrect and often by far. Disorganised system of creating a stable supply chain versus loyalty of farmers/producer, makes the daily production amount uncertain at best. Price at ramp delivered changes by the hour, having great impact on finished product offer. ‘Subject to final confirmation’ truly becomes yet another substantial factor, not to be ignored by industry. Our company brings that value added market insight to the table. Daily and hourly updates from plantations, fields and orchards as well as production information in regards to yield, quality and volumes, directly translates into advantage passed onto our customers.
Difference between short term sale targets and long term cooperation might be overlooked as important aspect of price development. Quick and easy prompt loadings, helping cash flow are specifically targeted by smaller companies. Concentrate/NFC production requires huge investments not only into facilities, but every year, with short harvest period, vast sums of money have to be ‘pumped into’ and ‘frozen’ into the product, with potential revenue coming back to processors with substantial delay. Long term contracts are required by majority of clients, increasing finance and storage cost for the product owner. Bank loans and credits are usually more expensive in Poland then in EU. Financial stability due to product and client diversification, allows Quadrum Foods to manage funding of raw material purchasing as well as processing and storage, limiting the risk to customers.
Year 2020 is yet another which brought us something new…..again. This time it affected our private lives as well as professional matters. Widespread problems caused by the COVID-19 pandemic only added to the typical worries faced every year. Poland went into lockdown of proportions unknown previously by many of its citizens. This very difficult period of time, demonstrated how fragile our well-structured lives actually are. That very description applied to many countries globally and exposed problems, some of which were swept under the carpet for some time before. We were fortunate, production facilities across the country have been kept open and running, even if with somewhat limited staff and operations. Transport has been kept running, moving goods within the country, EU and worldwide. Whilst doctors, nurses and various emergency services did their utmost and best, to keep people alive, food industry did their part in keeping store shelves full, warehouses stocked up. Various sections of the economy suffered and surely the full impact will only be known in time to come. But being in food industry seems to be the one of the crucial activities for the country. Most of employees at Quadrum Foods have been working remotely, quickly adapting to the new environment and conditions. We’ve kept the business running, keeping it as close as possible to normal activities.
At the time of press, we are around one month away from the new apple crop. With high expectations from producers and demand from clients, we are looking for yet another interesting, intensive, high-stake game of price war between all parties involved. Fairly mild effect of ‘Cold Sophie’ this year, rested trees from 2019s rather limited crop, so should bring a bullish harvest and price level allowing massive sale amounts. Or is there yet another surprise ahead for all of us….
Mateusz Świętanowski is the Concentrates, IQF & Puree Sales Manager, Quadrum Foods, Kraków, Poland