site.bta30 T of Cherries for the Market, 70 T for the Birds: Bulgarian Cherry Growers Are Plagued by Rising Costs, Low Purchase Prices and Difficult Sales

30 T of Cherries for the Market, 70 T for the Birds: Bulgarian Cherry Growers Are Plagued by Rising Costs, Low Purchase Prices and Difficult Sales
30 T of Cherries for the Market, 70 T for the Birds: Bulgarian Cherry Growers Are Plagued by Rising Costs, Low Purchase Prices and Difficult Sales
Dupnitsa is at the heart of one of Bulgaria's biggest cherry growing regions, May 28, 2024 (BTA Photo)

Kiril Dimitrov has been a cherry grower for 60 years and owns a cherry orchard of 10 ha near the southern town of Dupnitsa. He expects that the harvest will be some 100 t this year but of it he will only harvest 30 t and will leave the rest to the birds. Yet again, he and other cherry growers are plagued by rising costs, low purchase prices and difficult sales. 

The dealers who purchase local cherries and not yet open and growers complain they have nowhere to sell their cherries. "Purchase prices get lower by the year and sales are difficult. It is also hard to find cherry pickers. The situation seems hopeless," Dimitrov told BTA.

He explained that dealers in the region have been the same for many years and they keep prices low, which he believes is the crux of the problem. "Our cherries ripen after those in Plovdiv region and by the time they do the warehouses are full. This keeps our prices low," Dimitrov said.

He said the subsidy he gets barely covers his costs for the production of prime quality cherries.

Cherry harvesting machines are becoming increasingly popular with growers, which are faced with a labour shortage, but not everybody can afford one. "Also, the cherries harvested with a machine are only good for processing," said Dimitrov. 

This year's crop is "relatively good". The heavy rains in May have damaged some varieties but not all.

"The cherry processing factories are not working at the moment and what we harvest now is cherries for pulp. I can harvest 30 t. If I sell them for BGN 1.20-1.50, I will have enough to cover my costs. We expect a decision this coming Friday when the dealers will open but that can happen ten days from now. By that time my cherries will be overripe and nobody will want to but them," said Dimitrov.

He argues passionately in favour of building a state-owned or municipal processing facility. "If they don't do this, the orchards in Kyustendil region will be gone, especially the cherry orchards," he said.

He blames the State for "totally abandoning" orchard farmers.

"In Greece and other places they used EU funding to open processing plants. If each grower becomes a shareholder in such a company, they will have an interest to develop production. If not, we will have a desert here 20 years from now," said Dimitrov. 

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By 16:07 on 12.07.2024 Today`s news

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