EBRD, EU support Ukrainian berry producer Amethyst Ole

EBRD, EU support Ukrainian berry producer Amethyst Ole

Ukrainian king of antioxidants for European markets

Can you imagine an organic food product that could boost the health of your heart and overall immune system, is an excellent source of dietary fibre, vitamin C and vitamin K and contains a large number of antioxidants?It sounds too good to be true, but this is not the Elixir of Life. You can easily find this “superfood” product in your local market or nearest superstore!

Lowbush blueberries, also known as wild blueberries, were discovered 13,000 years ago and harvested by Native Americans, but the first highbush was developed and cultivated only around 120 years ago. Frederick Coville, an American botanist, was the first to start experimenting with wild berries, searching for the right plants to cultivate. The first commercial crop of highbush blueberries was sold in 1916. Little did Mr Coville know that, less than a century later, blueberry production would reach 45 million kilogrammes per year in the United States of America alone, and the berries would be shipped to South America, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Europe and almost every remote corner of the world.

In Ukraine, Amethyst Ole supplies local and international berry lovers with blueberries, the ultimate “superfood” organic product. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the European Union (EU) have helped the company to upgrade its production and boost exports.

Paving a path to export goods from micro farmers

Amethyst Ole is located in the picturesque village of Rudnya Bystra in northern Ukraine. It procures and processes wild berries – blueberries in particular. Local businesses and micro-farmers in the Zhytomyr, Khmelnytsk, Rivne and Volyn regions harvest wild berries and bring them to designated collection points scattered around various villages. By midnight, Ole picks up the berries and takes them to the production site. Every batch is processed within four hours of arrival. This ensures that the berries remain fresh and retain their healthy properties.

“When we started in 2011, we already had extensive experience of retailing berries, but with Ole we wanted to concentrate on quality over quantity and, even more importantly, create jobs for locals and give farmers an opportunity to have their goods sold outside Ukraine. With blueberry exports on the rise, we ship to Poland, Italy, France, the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Belgium and many other countries,” says Vasyl Chamor, Ole’s Chief Operating Officer.

Freshly picked berries are unloaded in a cooling corridor at -5℃ and then stored in a freezer room at -22 to -25℃ before reaching the processing line. First, a spiral conveyor fans the berries and separates off the leaves, gravel and any other waste. The blueberries are then automatically sorted according to size before reaching the electronic cleaning machine. This state-of-the-art
machine, is a custom-built photographic berry separator, has 16-colour video cameras that allow a 360-degree view of the processed berries.

“This machine is necessary to ensure that only top-quality berries reach the final physical quality check and inspection line before being packed and shipped,” Vasyl explains.

After a final quality check, the blueberries are electronically weighed and packed. Every package goes through a metal detector and is checked for radiation levels. In addition, every batch of berries undergoes regular spot checks for harmful particles.

“We take consumer safety very seriously. Our goal is to ensure that our processing machinery and methods meet the high standards set by the EU. That is why we have all our equipment and processes certified. This includes all relevant certifications for ISO, organic and natural product processing and hazard analysis standards,” Vasyl adds.

Lastly, the company stores the packed blueberries in freezing chambers at approximately -35℃ until they are shipped to customers.

The processes at Amethyst Ole show that the company is a well-oiled machine, reaping the benefits of evolving technology that streamlines the workflow and makes it more efficient. The EU4Business-EBRD credit line helped the berry processor to upgrade machinery and purchase crate-washing equipment, as the company was able to take out a loan through local partner institution Bank Lviv.

Boosting the private sector

Amethyst Ole is just one of the 470 Ukrainian businesses that have benefited from EBRD-EU4Business credit line funds.

Small and medium-sized businesses are vital for sustainable economic development in any country. For agriculturally focused countries like Ukraine, it remains challenging to access technologies and meet industry standards, especially for businesses that are located outside big cities and regional centres.

Through partner banks, the EBRD and the EU support firms in Ukraine and other Eastern Partnership countries with finance and grant incentives to meet international standards and
regulations. This unlocks new opportunities and markets for SMEs, boosts export volumes and builds better economies in the long run.

Private Enterprise ‘Rusynska Miasna Company’ (RMC)

Private Enterprise ‘Rusynska Miasna Company’ (RMC)

The core business activity of the RMC is pig breeding. Despite the COVID pandemic, the five employees of the company are safe and healthy.  Keeping the required social distance is not hard in this type of business and additional measures, such as the introduction of personal protection measures, ensured that employees and management were also largely unaffected by COVID-19 during meetings and personal interactions.

At the end of 2020, the situation on the pork market in Ukraine, as well as around the world, was unstable and unpredictable. However, in the spring and summer months of 2020, Ukrainian pig farmers were in a better situation than their counterparts in the EU, since abroad many slaughterhouses were closed due to outbreaks of coronavirus among workers, resulting in disruptions in the supply chain and the industry in Europe.

RMC’s management is optimistic and confident about its future as local food supply has become more system relevant than ever during the pandemic and meat is always in high demand in Ukraine. Although cafes and restaurants are closed, consumption is growing slowly but steadily. To support the growth in the domestic and export markets, RMC already invested in a Semi-Trailer at the end of 2019, just before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and invested in the purchase of equipment for farming and fattening of pigs in February 2021. The last investment project was verified in March 2021. The grant payments on both projects certainly helped the company to make additional investments into the realisations of its growth targets as well as in protecting workers under the new conditions.

1st Loan – Financed by OPTL in December 2019

Loan Amount

€ 92,213

Grant Amount

€ 9,221

Invested in:

Semi-Trailer

2nd Loan – Financed by Bank Lviv in September 2020

Loan Amount

€ 250,837

Grant Amount

€ 25,084

Invested in:

Feeding and drinking systems, ventilation system, drug dispenser for drinking systems, boar box, feed silos

Khrystyna’ Limited Liability Company

Khrystyna’ Limited Liability Company

Located in Berezhany (approximately 90km from Lviv) the company ‘Khrystyna’ produces corrugated cardboard and products made from corrugated paper cardboard and from wastepaper.  The company recently purchased a new paper lamination machine with printing and cutting capability. The project was verified in March 2021.

With the onset of the COVID pandemic in early 2020, the company immediately introduced all sanitary measures to protect its 55 employees and organised the production processes in a way to minimize physical contacts between employees. Even though the company did not suffer any direct negative impact of COVID-19 on its business activities, structural problems in the sector, which seriously affected the paper industry at a global level, were also felt by Khrystyna LLC. Due to the quarantines and lockdowns introduced in Ukraine and other European countries, wastepaper collection was disrupted and the price for wastepaper tripled. The shortages in wastepaper supply practically led to a collapse of the domestic wastepaper supply market. With the new machine, which was financed through a EU4Business-EBRD Credit Line loan and the 10% grant received after the successful verification of the project, the company has been able to focus its production on corrugated cardboard until the situation of the recyclable materials market returns to normal. The project was financed by Bank Lviv.

Loan Amount

€ 13,237

Grant Amount

€ 1,324

Invested in:

Lamination Machine

Ardenz Boiler Equipment Plant

Ardenz Boiler Equipment Plant

The company ARDENZ is a Ukrainian manufacturer of steam boilers, metal tanks, reservoirs and containers.  More than a hundred years old, the company has experienced many ups and downs in its long history. Around 10 years ago, it was even questionable if it could continue its production or if it would finally have to shut its doors forever. With dedication and courage, the new owners managed to turn around the company and make it into the success story that it is today. From near closure to 65 employees, significant capacity expansion and a firm eye on ambitious export targets for the next years, the company has firmly reclaimed its place in its market segment and is expected to become an international player to be reckoned with.  Part of the recent expansion included the purchase of a modern laser cutting machine, financed through a EU4Business-EBRD Credit Line loan that was disbursed by ‘OTP Leasing’ LLC. Despite COVID-19 restrictions, the project was successfully verified in January 2021.

Similar to most of the other countries, the infection rates in Ukraine were somewhat higher in the winter than in the summer season. Even though some staff of Ardenz did get infected, despite personal protection measures implemented, the winter tends to be low season for the production of boilers and the effect on the business was minimal.  Furthermore, the company had organized its production processes to the extent where staff became interchangeable early on in the pandemic, further minimizing any effects on production in case of quarantined staff or COVID-related sick leave.

With continuous improvement in production, business development but also with the ongoing adaptations to operate successfully under the conditions imposed by the pandemic, the future of the company looks promising and the management will explore the possibility of reapplying for another EU4Business-EBRD Credit Line loan.

 

Loan Amount

€ 270,126

Grant Amount

€ 27,013

Invested in:

Laser cutting machine

Primary Energy Savings

106 kWh/year

Material Saving

146 tonnes/year t

GHG Savings

17 kgCO2/year

Energy Saving Ratio

35%