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Mongolian Blueberries



Few places on Earth are as desolate and isolated as upper Mongolia near Lake Khovsgol, a region

where the average mean temperature in January is minus 32�C coupled with no economically

significant resources. In this area there are few villages and most of the resident population is

nomadic, moving their herds with the seasons and availability of grazing land.

 

Faced with the challenge of providing a better quality of living for the people of Mongolia the

government is faced with seemingly insurmountable challenges. To support the governmental

efforts, U. S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has a number of programs

in Mongolia ranging from assisting in improving the transparency and accessibility of the

government to supporting business development.

 

In Mongolia during October 2005, 2020DC discovered a locally produced wild blueberry

jam at a Ulaanbaatar (UB) market. Realizing that world demand for blueberries exceeds the

available supply, 2020 queried about the local crop and learned that it was estimated that only

2% of the available berries were harvested annually due to limited demand.

 

Subsequently, 2020 visited several companies in Japan to discuss market opportunities for

Mongolian products. 2020 received an overwhelming interest in blueberry products with a solid

inquiry for 2,800 cases of blueberry jam for immediate shipment based upon the price that

we received from the producer in Mongolia. Learning that there was insufficient product to

meet this demand, yet an un-harvested crop and excess labor in the region, we realized that there

was an opportunity for profit to be developed.

 

For economic development to be sustainable it is critical that the companies and individuals

involved continue to make a profit when support comes to an end. The Japanese companies that we

met with expressed their interest in cooperating to develop this opportunity. They each felt that

having the ability to offer Mongolia wild blueberry products would provide them with significant

competitive advantages over other sources of blueberries.

 

USAID Economic Policy Reform and Competitiveness Project (EPRC) began their work to

develop a supply chain capable of meeting the demands for quality and volume of the customers.

With a firm commitment from a buyer for the final product, the chances of success and

sustainability justified USAID and local participation. In May 2006, 2020 traveled to Lake Hovsgol

with two buyers from Japan to review the opportunities and determine if there was sufficient

supply and technology to provide the customers with product to justify their commitment to the

project. On this trip we started the process of exploring the concept of producing other value

added products from the available blueberries including dried blueberries, blueberry powder, and

IQF frozen blueberries.

 

The development of an economy associated with the Mongolia wild blueberry crop will help achieve

the economic objectives of the government of Mongolia by helping to improve the standards of living

for the local populace without changing their lifestyle or requiring them to give up their centuries

old traditions as nomadic herdsman.