December usually marks increasing demand for imported fruits and vegetables in Russia and neighboring countries, as local stocks are finishing and people prepare for long festive season. However, 2009 is different from previous years.
During the second week of December the sales came almost to a halt in many areas and sellers reported of unusually low demand for fruits and vegetables. Hopes were put on cold and snowy weather during the second week, but first days of “real” winter in Russia didn’t bring expected uplift in sales. Many sellers in Russia, Ukraine and Moldova are stuck with full storages of fruit, while others (mostly from remote regions) have cut down their purchases to a minimum back in November.
Except for the weather, another reason for low sales in some areas could be an unusual spin-off of the credit crunch: some companies have switched from importing more expensive or quoted products into fresh fruit. These companies usually purchase large quantities of low to medium quality products hoping to make fast dollars, and when the market doesn’t live up to their expectations they unload the products fast for extremely low price. Since consumers have been affected by the crisis as well, they tend to be less picky when choosing their products, thus affecting sales of more quality and expensive products. This situation is very prominent in Moldova, which is one of the poorest countries in the area.
Similar situation is in Ukraine: while generally the market isn’t as bad as in Russia and Moldova, November outburst of swine flu caused high demand for citrus fruit, particularly lemons and oranges. Large quantities of oranges were shipped from all over the world – from Argentina to Turkey, and this caused the market to be overfilled. As a result, orange prices have dropped very sharply, leaving many importers without profit.
Hopes are now than in the next 10 days until the New Year the sales will pick up, supported by large amounts of snow and cold weather.