‘The people switched to local producers and don’t want to buy any imported rubbish’
Owner of Berry Valley brand Ildar Sitdikov about competition, the necessity of support from the authorities and consumers’ preferences
Tatarstan berry producers didn’t manage to get support from Russia’s Agriculture Minister Dmitry Patrushev after asking him to cope with competitors from other countries. But in some cases, buyers themselves come to the rescue to local businesspeople by opting for Russian products, not imported ones. Amid this, businesspeople want to turn to the administration of Tatarstan and Kazan asking them to give seasonal sites to sell their products. Zelenodolsk businessman, owner of Berry Valley brand Ildar Sitdikov told Realnoe Vremya about the sites and how the situation in the Russian berry market has changed over the year.
People stopped buying imported strawberry
What about the competition with friendly countries? Did the Ministry of Agriculture solve your problem?
It is big politics here, you know. Now, I think, nobody is going forbid anything to anybody. The buzz is small for the whole country. I think nobody will never hear us. Do they bother us? Yes, Serbia is friendly, I don’t know what we owe it. The same favourite Turkey and other countries — Azerbaijan, Iran. If there were protection like in Turkey, when you simply have no chance of entering the market there because there are local producers, nobody practises this here. A big company in Almetyevsk incurred a loss of 80 million rubles last year because it didn’t manage to sell its product. The issue was buried. And of course, nobody pays attention to them.
How are strawberry sales going?
Strawberry sales are good. Our people love to buy precisely local strawberry, and the markets this year are full of different kinds of imported ones. And it turns out their sales stopped because local berries started to be sold because earlier the people bought them out of despair, and now there is choice — you either buy local or foreign. And it turns out that sales of different producers who bring berries from different places halted. The people simply switched to local producers and don’t want to buy any imported rubbish.
Did your sales go up because of the interest in local producers?
Yes, our sales are doing fine. We would like to ask the administration of our respected republic and city very much to give us some seasonal sites so that we can supply and sell fresh strawberry of our local Tatarstan producers for citizens. This would seriously help in all the senses. We bought four cars this season to delivery strawberry across the city. The cars are brand new. Hopefully, it will start to be delivered in a few days.
Where are you going to deliver it?
We will deliver it to Kazan and Zelenodolsk. Delivery is free.
What do mean when talking about the sites? Is it special fairs?
No, it is mobile seasonal sites to delivery strawberry to one’s place. In other words, a person calls, we come and hand it over. If we were given such sites for rent in the city, we would be very grateful and could unite many producers to sell in a centralised way. Somebody has raspberry, some does strawberry or blackberry. We could cooperate very well, go along the way of cooperation.
“We are waiting for a new record”
What’s the price of strawberry now?
Now our price is from 350 to 450 rubles per kilogramme.
Do you expect to break the harvest record this year?
Yes, we really hope the record will be broken. Five hectares of plantations will be allocated in Almetyevesk District. The nursery plants are very prolific and productive. I think the record will be broken. We are really waiting for this.
You used to buy nursery plants in Italy. Did the situation change now?
We still buy them there. Sanctions have absolutely no impact. Of course, they don’t want to let them pass the customs, but we are resolving this issue through parallel import.
Where do you get fertilisers?
All of them are made in Russia. We handle it amazingly. The prime cost is also fine.
Iran wins the fight for salad
You planted salad last year and tried to compete with Iran. Are you going to sell it this year?
No, we completely stopped planting it. The reason is that we didn’t manage to sell it to anybody. And the losses were simply impossible, simply huge. Nobody needed it because there was very cheap Iran. Iran is available now too, this is why we foresaw the situation and didn’t plant absolutely anything. And we aren’t going. We left the salad market.
Do we have a lot of salad producers?
Lads planted it. They have direct contracts with companies. This is why I really hope they will do it. Talking about Iran, they haven’t raised prices since last year, their workforce is super cheap, there aren’t any taxes, the climate is gorgeous, and they turn out to be simply consecutively destroying our producers. It takes a year, two or three. We gradually go down and give our market to these sellers. Of course, when we aren’t on the market, they will immediately double or triple the prices. And this is will be fine.
Do you focus on strawberry now?
Yes, now we focus on strawberry and black currant. We have farmers growing raspberry. I think they will also make it. We cheer for them. I think there is going to be enough strawberry, black currant and raspberry.
Solved problem of workforce deficit
Have you opened farms in the last year or are you just planning?
Now we are looking for a land parcel to plant up to 100 hectares of black currant. We would like to buy it either in Vysokaya Gora or Zelenodolsk District.
Earlier, you had a staff deficit. What’s the situation now?
Now it’s better. People come and want to work. They felt they made money last year. There are a lot of requests. We pay people 30 rubles per kilogramme of berry collected. From 1 September, we pay 60 rubles per kilogramme.
How much do people earn on average?
They make 1.500-5,000 rubles a day. A hectare provides 15-20 locals with job. Everybody has a job, taxes are paid. Yes, our prime cost is a bit higher, but our climate is not so good like in other friendly countries. The workforce is much more expensive than there. For instance, in Egypt, a person earns a dollar a day. Here, people won’t work for such little money. It turns out we have such a socially significant area that provides countrypeople with money in spring, summer and autumn. We constantly provide people with job except for winter. Now over 20 people are working with me personally, it is in Zelenodolsk District, every day. In Almetyevsk District, the number reaches 60-70 people. And people anyway come and come.