Latvian-grown seaberries sell like hotcakes

Demand for sea buckthorn berries grown in Latvia this year has risen - so much so that growers can't keep up with the supply, Latvian Radio reported September 1.

Harvest time for seaberries has begun. Last year, it was difficult to sell them, because large volumes of Romanian seaberries had entered the European market. This year, though, demand has risen both in Latvia and in Europe, partly due to COVID-19 and people wanting to strengthen their immune systems. It turns out that Latvian seaberries are of significantly higher quality than the Romanian ones.

"I can hardly control the situation here, honestly," said one of Vidzeme's most experienced growers, Jurijs Ovsjaņņikovs. He said that very high demand for these berries was also seen in the spring, when many were thinking about strengthening immune system.

"The end was simply dramatic from the point of view that everything had been sold out, also the previous harvest. The amount of vitamins that are in berries and juice, yes, it really makes the body stronger," said Jurijs.

For the third year, Gunda Kazerovska from the Amata municipality is also cultivating the buckthorn because of its valuable berries:

"I intend to give them to processing experts, who in turn freeze them, purify them, and then send them to Scandinavia, Germany," she said. 

During the last harvest season, growers who had sold their berries to exports dealers were concerned because the European market had been inundated by the Romanian seaberry.

"Last year was rather unstable due to the aggressive market entry of Romanians, because they also planted very large areas for European money; the price was down because exporters feared there would be no market for the berries and did not buy them.  Some didn't harvest at all. But this unfortunate - or in this case fortunate - COVID-19 has exhausted all vitamin C reserves in the world, and the seaberry is one of the greatest strengths for the immune system, so this year the demand is very good, demand is growing again," said Gunda Kazerovska.

She also said that the seaberries grown in Latvia are also more valuable and of better quality:

''Our seaberries are very good, they're high in oil, big berries, they're valuable, they're recognized and valued on the world market."

Similarly, Andrejs Brūvelis, head of the Latvian Orchardman Association, said that a study of Romanian buckthorn has been carried out and concluded that they are not competitors to the Latvian ones.

"We also visited Romania last year, walked through their plantations, looked at what they were doing and realized it was a whole different berry, it was small, unsavory and hairy, and cheap - two different products. There is a Lada and there is a Mercedes, ours is the Mercedes. Mercedes', we have 'Mercedes', We invested in exhibitions, traveled around Europe, offered, introduced our berry, and the result was immediately positive, there are now 800 tonnes in export demand,"  Andrejs Brūvelis said.

He added that the COVID-19 crisis has negatively affected the economic situation and the purchasing ability of people.

''There is less money, but we nevertheless feel that people are prepared to spend more on healthier food, including seaberries. The average citizen of Latvia, we calculated, consumes the seaberry twelve times more than the average citizen of Europe, we use it much more," said Brūvelis.

Buckthorn is not only a rich source of vitamin C, but also contains a lot of organically active substances that the body needs.

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