Ukraine-based Ukrkharchopromcomplex continuing to rebuild in country at war

The staff of Ukrkharchopromcomplex at their booth at Seafood Expo Global 2023.

Ukraine-based Ukrkharchopromcomplex, the sole exhibitor from the country at Seafood Expo Global in Barcelona, Spain, has had a more eventful year than most. 

In 2022, the Kalynivka, Ukraine-based company attended Seafood Expo Global – the first ever edition of the show in Barcelona – with nothing but a Ukrainian flag and a binder full of pictures of the company’s cold storage facilities on fire. At the onset of Russia’s invasion of the country, Ukrkharchopromcomplex’s facility was hit by a missile launched by Russia, but at the expo in 2022 General Manager Oleg Bilodid vowed the company would rebuild.

“This is the missile, from Mr. Putin,” Bilodid told SeafoodSource at the time, while pointing at a photo of the destroyed facilities with a large missile embedded in the floor.

In the year since, Bilodid told SeafoodSource at the 2023 edition of Seafood Expo Global, the company has made great progress on rehabilitating its facilities – which it uses to process Atlantic salmon, trout, sockeye salmon, cod, haddock, other whitefish, and more.

“We restored the production facility, not totally, but so that the processing workshops, everything is fine,” Bilodid said. "We bought a tunnel freezer [to replace one] which burned down with [the] missile, and we will install in May.”

Most of the company’s processing capacity has been replaced, he said, though its cold storage areas haven’t been fully restored.

“We are now building a small cold storage, 15 times smaller than it used to be,” Bilodid said. “We have to do what we need to to survive.”

Bilodid said the money the company needs to fully rebuild is hard to source ,considering its facilities are located in a country under siege. But one silver lining, Ukrkharchopromcomplex General Manager Lars Hansen told SeafoodSource, is that most companies don’t want their product to stick around Ukraine for long. Insurance companies don’t want to take the risk of insuring anything in a war zone, so most customers want their products in the company’s facilities for as little time as possible – which limits the need for large long-term cold storage facilities like it used to have. 

“Everything is quick in, quick out,” Hansen told SeafoodSource.

Nevertheless, Ukrkharchopromcomplex hasn’t been able to get back to full capacity. Labor is a challenge, but its production is at least 75 percent of what it was, and it is aiming to rebuild to 100 percent of its pre-war production by Q3 2023 using more automated solutions, according to Bilodid.

Regardless of its ability to rebuild, life at the company has changed, he said. Constant power outages caused by attacks from Russia left the company completely dependent on a generator for most of the winter, and more than once, employees had to spend days at a time in shelters …

Photo by Chris Chase/SeafoodSource

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