EBRD provides loan to Ukrainian exporter of frozen berries

According to EastFruit, Ukraine is one of the world’s leading exporters of blueberries – the Ukrainian queen berry of antioxidants.

Organically certified blueberries can support heart health and strengthen the overall immune system of consumers, they are also an excellent source of dietary fiber, vitamin C and vitamin K, and are high in antioxidants. Consequently, the Ukrainian wild-growing blueberry is considered a “superfood” and Amethyst Ole supplies it to local and international customers.

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the European Union (EU) have helped the company modernize production and boost exports. The Amethyst Ole company is located in the village of Rudnya-Bystra in the Zhytomyr region of Ukraine. Harvests and processes wild berries, in particular blueberries. Local businesses and self-employed people in Zhytomyr, Khmelnytsky, Rivne and Volyn regions collect wild berries and bring them to special collection points located in different villages. By midnight, Amethyst Ole collects the berry and takes it to the production site. Each batch is processed within four hours of arrival. This ensures that the berries remain fresh and retain their beneficial properties.

“When we started in 2011, we already had extensive experience in berry retailing, but at Amethyst Ole we wanted to focus on quality over quantity and, more importantly, create jobs for local people and empower farmers. sell your products outside of Ukraine. As the export of blueberries grows, we ship them to Poland, Italy, France, the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Belgium and many other countries, ”says Vasily Chamor, Chief Operating Officer of the company.

The freshly picked berries are discharged into a cooling aisle at -5 ℃ and then stored in a freezer at -22 to -25 ℃ before they enter the processing line.

First, the spiral conveyor blows on the berries and separates leaves, gravel and any other waste. The blueberries are then automatically sorted by size before entering the electronic cleaning machine. This state-of-the-art machine is a custom-made photographic berry separator with 16-color video cameras that provide a 360-degree view of the processed berries.

“This machine is necessary to ensure that only the highest quality berries go to the line of final verification of physical quality parameters and control before packaging and shipment,” explains Vasily.

After a final quality check, the blueberries are electronically weighed and packed. Each package is passed through a metal detector and checked for radiation levels. In addition, each batch of berries undergoes regular spot checks for harmful particles.

“We take consumer safety very seriously. Our goal is to ensure that our equipment and processing methods meet the high standards set by the EU. That is why all our equipment and processes are certified. This includes all relevant ISO certifications, organic and natural product processing standards and HACCP, ”adds Vasily.

The company also stores packaged blueberries in freezers at around -35 ℃ until they are shipped to customers.

The EU4Business-EBRD credit line helped the berry processor upgrade equipment and purchase equipment for cleaning crates, as the company was able to obtain a loan through a local partner, Bank Lviv. Amethyst Ole is only one of 470 Ukrainian companies to receive an EBRD-EU4Business credit line.

Small and medium businesses are vital for the sustainable economic development of any country. Agriculture-oriented countries like Ukraine continue to find it difficult to access technology and meet industry standards, especially for businesses located outside of major cities and regional centers.

Through partner banks, the EBRD and the EU support firms in Ukraine and other EaP countries with funding and incentives to meet international standards and regulations. This opens up new opportunities and markets for SMEs, increases export volumes and contributes to better economic development in the long term.