kyivpost.com; by Svitlana Tuchynska: Billionaire Dmytro Firtash, who controls much of Ukraine’s natural gas, fertilizer and titanium sectors, clearly has a nose for money. So it’s no surprise he is setting his sights on Ukraine’s huge agribusiness potential.
DF Agro, the agribusiness arm of his Group DF holding, has unveiled a 30-35 million euro, 18-hectare greenhouse project in his hometown of Synkiv, Ternopil Oblast.
Dubbed the largest greenhouse project in western Ukraine, plans envision it being expanded to 40 hectares in coming years, helping to fill the year-around Ukrainian market demand for fresh tomatoes, sweet peppers and cucumbers.
We are building “one of the most modern greenhouse businesses in Europe,” Firtash said at the Sept. 21 opening ceremony. “On Monday (Oct. 1,) the first truckload of products will leave (the complex). The cucumber harvest has been completely sold.”
Annual production plans include 350 tons of cucumbers, 1,550 tons of peppers and 4,000 tons of tomatoes. DF Agro said it will cut Ukraine’s need to import sweet peppers by 20 percent.
For Firtash, the new greenhouse is a big leap into agriculture. But for Ukraine, it’s a drop in the bucket of what it will take to replace fruit and vegetable imports with domestic produce.
Meager investment into greenhouses and refrigerated warehouses, among others, mean Ukrainian consumers experience a shortage and high prices for certain types of out-of-season fruits and vegetables.
As a result, Ukraine imports around 40,000 tons of vegetables every year from warmer countries, according to official figures. Much of the produce comes from Turkey, the Middle East, Egypt and Poland.
Meanwhile, sizable portions of domestically produced vegetables and fruits rot in poorly ventilated and refrigerated storehouses. In 2011, hundreds of tons of rotten onions had to be thrown away.
According to Ihor Strelyuk, a vegetables and fruits expert at the Ukrainian Agribusiness Club, new greenhouse projects will help put more vegetables on Ukrainian tables.