If you buy onions or carrots in one of the major supermarkets in the Republic of Moldova, you cannot but appreciate the nicely and safely packed produce made in Moldova. Chances are high that these are supplied by a beneficiary of the EIB Fruit Garden of Moldova credit line – SRL SanduNelu.
In 2019, the family-owned company decided to modernise production, reconstruct the packing areas and procure lines for grading, washing, calibration, weighing and packaging, which would allow the company to create optimal working conditions for employees and increase efficiency. The investment was worth just over a million EUR of which EUR 492,000 were made available through EIB Fruit Garden of Moldova credit line. The company benefitted VAT and import duty exemptions for all of the EIBfinanced equipment. In addition, the EIB Fruit Garden of Moldova project made business advisory support available, which helped SanduNelu to get all the paperwork ready for loan disbursement by the bank.
After the investment, SanduNelu started to supply practically all supermarket chains in the country. “It has not been easy to establish partnerships with them”, explains the entrepreneur Ion Cojocaru. “It is very important to have both the volume needed for continuous supply of product and a very good quality.” The vegetables produced in Răscăieţi on the lower Dniester River are easily identifiable by the trademark “Dniester vegetables from Ion’s Garden” that the Cojocaru’s recently got registered.
The effects of the Coronavirus pandemic
SanduNelu felt the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic immediately. Due to the lockdown, 60 tons of beetroots had to be dumped, while usually stored to be sold out in the spring time and highly demanded by the restaurants and catering.
At the same time, the company’s sales to supermarkets almost tripled during lockdown compared to the previous year as open market places were closed. In the supermarkets, a steep demand increase for packed items was noticed during the pandemic when the customers wanted to avoid any risks of virus transmission. The investment was made just in time to benefit from this amplified demand. Otherwise, the supermarkets would have most probably reverted to imported produce. Today, SanduNelu supplies about 60% of all onions and carrots sold through the supermarkets in Moldova.
Another important aspect of the investment was occupational safety during the pandemic: With the new lines, workers could carry out their work safely keeping enough distance from each other, something that was impossible to achieve using old equipment.
Emerging stronger from the Coronavirus crisis, Ion Cojocaru has plans for the future: “We plan to launch a product collection centre to help all producers in the area who have difficulties selling their crop. We would like to offer vegetable sorting and packaging services so that more farmers can target high-end markets.