The Yerevani apricot variety is native to the Ararat Valley—more specifically, to Yerevan itself. Compared to other varieties, it contains less sugar, which makes it healthier. According to Vardges Davtyan, founder of Lukashin Agricultural Association in Armenia, apricot varieties grown in Armenia contain more of the carotene essential for reducing the risk of cancer. Vardges’s UK partners advised him to obtain proof of these qualities from a leading European laboratory to turn it into a competitive advantage for exports of Yerevani apricots.
With the proof in his hands, Vardges was one of the first to set up the production of dried Yerevani apricots and to export them to the UK. In 2020, Vardges exported 500 kg to the UK and demand has doubled this year. The Association has already received orders for 1-2 tonnes.
The first meeting
During BIOFACH 2019, the world’s leading trade fair for organic food, Vardges Davtyan first met his current partners from the UK. Vardges and a number of other Armenian growers participated in the trade fair under the Ready to Trade project being implemented by the International Trade Centre and supported by the European Union under the EU4Business initiative.
“To increase our company’s credibility and that of our products and ensure a long-term partnership, our UK partners advised us to have a website,” says Vardges. “The Ready to Trade project stepped in to help us. Our website has become a business card that promotes our products both locally and globally and it helps us connect with new partners among international buyers and maintain existing relationships.”
The Lukashin Association has been operating since 2005 and has already been exporting for five years to major markets in the US, France and the UK.
As part of the Ready to Trade project, this October, the Lukashin Association and a number of other growers from Armenia participated in Anuga 2021, the largest food and beverages trade fair in Europe. Anuga is also the first and largest international platform for networking and sales to host local companies since the pandemic hit the world.
“International trade fairs are very important,” notes Vardges. “They help you to establish partnerships, to have a better idea of what is in demand on global markets, and to know what kind of products, branding and packaging are trending.”
From learning to practicing and exporting
In early 2020, the Luskashin cooperative and other growers visited South Africa, one of the world leaders in dried fruit production and export. On this tour, they received expert advice on producing internationally and specifically about products that would be competitive in the EU.
“We learned how to extend the shelf life of dried fruit, what kinds of antiseptics to use during production, and how to produce attractive yet affordable packaging in line with European standards,” recalls Vardges. “We’ve already purchased some of the equipment we saw in South Africa and it has proved quite effective for reducing the cost price of certain dried fruit.”
On track to unlocking new markets
Despite the pandemic, 2020 was quite productive for the Lukashin cooperative. For the first time, the association entered the UK market and expanded exports to other countries. 2021 has been even more successful so far. Export volumes have grown 20-30%. Today, the cooperative is working hard to expand its product range and make its packaging more competitive. This should help them conquer the next round of new markets in Europe and North America.