3 factors hindering export of strawberries in Azerbaijan
Chairman of the Association of Fruit and Vegetable Producers and Exporters of Azerbaijan Bashir Guliyev said that the quality and varieties of strawberries produced in the country are not at the level desired by exporters. According to Guliyev, it is necessary to work on both varieties and cultivation technology of strawberries and increase the quality for the product to be competitive. "Which we don't see right now. We wanted to supply the product to export to the Russian market, but we saw that it was not cultivated to a high degree, both in terms of variety and quality. I believe that the export potential of strawberries grown in Azerbaijan will increase. Some countries specialize in this field. I believe that this will be the case with strawberry exports, just as Azerbaijan has been successful with tomato exports,” he said.
In January-March this year, Azerbaijan exported $ 429 million in the non-oil sector, which is 3.3% more than in the same period last year. In the list of non-oil exports in the first quarter, tomatoes ($ 43.9 million) was first, raw cotton ($ 42.8 million) second, and gold ($ 36.3 million) was third.
Interestingly, what is required to increase the competitiveness of strawberries and the export potential of the product?
According to agricultural expert Nijat Nasirli, there are several reasons for the current situation. "We do export strawberries, although they do not fully cover the overall potential. It seems that the current situation does not satisfy Bashir Guliyev. Strawberries can be exported at any time of the year, even in winter. We accept products according to the season, but this is not the case in other countries. The culture of eating strawberries is completely different, especially in Russia and other countries it is exported to, which is, in fact, the positive side of strawberries – they always have a favorable place in the international market. Therefore, the current figures for exports are unsatisfactory. There are some reasons for this. First of all, this area is not typical of our agriculture. This area expanded with the expansion of employment in the early 2000s. It was a project brought to our country by some foreign organizations. Specifically, it started in the Jalilabad region. At that time, "Victoria” seedlings were brought to Azerbaijan from America. Initially, it was cultivated in Shamkir and other regions as a result of increasing employment, and in the following periods as a result of the interest in this variety in the international market. So the first issue is that this is a new area for our agriculture. The vast majority of seedlings are imported and new to local farmers who do not fully understand the nature of this plant. In general, we have the wrong approach. Everyone brings seedlings from abroad but does not take into account the local climate and soil conditions, zoning. You've probably noticed that sometimes when you eat strawberries, they have no taste. The reason for this is very simple. Our farmers do not fully know the plant protection measures of strawberries and their fertilization dose, which affects the quality of the product. That is why our strawberries are not competitive. The second reason, as in many areas, is the lack of proper product marketing. Packaging and transportation of the product affect its export. Strawberries are very fragile berries. When it's poorly packaged, it affects transportation,” he said.
The expert emphasized selection as the third reason. "One of the problems is that the exported strawberries do not suit the taste of the citizens of that country, which also harms exports. For this purpose, when using imported strawberry seedlings, it is necessary to consult with some scientific research institutes operating in the agricultural sector. It would be better if they give a sample of the seed they bring and test it before planting. In this case, the traits of our local products will be given to imported seedlings through selection. That is, in general, there is a need to establish systematic work in this area. We would suggest that coordinated work be established between scientific and government agencies operating in our country,” he added.
According to economist Parviz Heydarov, we must first pay special attention to the export capacity of non-oil products. "When talking about the export of non-oil products, I always say that if we think only about the domestic market when engaging in production and supply, we will not only be able to export nothing, but we will not even meet the demand of the domestic market in general. If the product is not competitive, then it will lose in the domestic market to imported products. In other words, consumers will not buy the local product, but the imported ones under the same category. Therefore, in the production of non-oil products, we must first pay attention to its export capability. In this regard, agricultural products are of paramount importance because these products are seasonal and belong to the group with specific seasonal characteristics. Therefore, special attention should be paid to the quality of these products. First of all, we must stop the import of such products to the domestic market. Not only strawberries but, in general, quality should be the priority in the production and supply of all types of non-oil products,” Heydarov said.