The production of strawberries is one of the most profitable activities in Serbia, and they say that a return on the initial investments is made at the first harvest. Furthermore, in order for the harvest to be successful, strawberries require constant work and care. This is reflected in the price, especially when it comes to dried strawberries.
As a relatively new product, dried strawberries are not present in markets here, except for one, whereas the export is quite successful.
There are two ways to dry strawberries – lyophilization (freeze-drying) and osmosis, which requires greater quantities, making the process very expensive, so it’s no wonder that the prices per kilogram range from RSD 2,000 to 30 or 40 euros.
There are cheaper dried strawberries abroad, but there are several factors at play here.
– Exported freeze-dried strawberries cost 30 to 40 euros per kilogram. Companies which produce them point out that the price varies depending on the demands of the customer, which most often pertain to the quality, packaging, quantities and other factors, so the price is formed for each customer – the Association for Plant Production at the Chamber of Commerce of Serbia explains for Telegraf Biznis.
According to them, freeze-drying is a very demanding process, both in terms of length and the fact that it requires high-quality fruits.
This dehydration process causes the fruit to lose up to 90% of its water. This is a long-term process, which entails the use of a highly sophisticated technology, which considerably increases the price of the finished product.
– The fruit is first frozen at –50 to –60 degrees Celsius and the moisture is then removed in a vacuum system inside a chamber. The process takes up to 40 hours. During the process, the ice is sublimated into water vapor – says Goran Djakovic, who produces strawberries, but doesn’t export them in a dried form, because, as he points out, he sells everything fresh.
That was one of the topics discussed in a Facebook group which gathers people from these areas who now live in Dubai. They wanted to know why the price was lower there and how strawberries from Serbia of all places had ended up there.
The fact is that Serbia is an important exporter of berries and that it has a cooperation agreement with the UAE. It obviously pays off for producers to export to that market, whereas they don’t offer the product in the Serbian market, because there’s no demand.
– Few kilograms are produced and the drying process is done on frozen goods. The entire procedure is expensive and the result is that the price here is big. The purchaser probably has freeze-dried strawberries in mind and it is true that those are not available in our stores – explains Radmilo Jovanovic of TEMPO Foods, a company which offers dried strawberries and currently sells its product in a large store chain in the country.
The advantages of the use of freeze-dried fruit are that the chemical composition of the fruit is fully preserved, the contamination of products is avoided, and the nutritional value, the aroma and the flavor are preserved, so this fruit is considered a highly nutritional food, the CCIS emphasizes.
Jovanovic explains that the other procedure, osmosis, is more practical and available in that sense.
– The fruit is dried in a fruit syrup. Practically, the water molecules are extracted. All the minerals, but also the vitamins, are kept. The process is carried out in a vacuum and no additives are used, unlike in the preservation process – he notes and adds that everything is fully healthy and natural.
According to him, dried strawberries are more expensive, but people are starting to buy them, and there’s even a lack of supply of one of his products in one city.
He exports to America, the Middle East…
– We also experience the problem of the competition. There are certain market conditions in the local market, such as they are, and everyone has to adapt. Lowering the price would mean that we are not able to procure the resources for development, investments… It is different in the foreign market, where the most frequent scenario is that a large purchaser buys out several smaller producers like us and then sells the products. Also, the consumers also participate in the market – he says.
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