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The Warsaw Voice » Special Sections » September 30, 2011
Polska… tastes good!
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Fruit and veg: taste of success
September 30, 2011   
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Poland has become a leading vegetable and fruit exporter in the European Union.

Polish fruit and vegetables are healthy and safe, as indicated by the high degree of interest shown in such products by importers from many countries in Europe and beyond. Polish fruit and vegetable exports were worth almost 2 billion euros in 2010, or a seventh of the total value of all Polish agri-food exports. The production of champignon mushrooms is biggest success story in Polish horticulture. Poland produces 225,000 metric tons of these mushrooms annually, more than any other country in the European Union. As regards fruit and vegetables, Poland ranks fourth and sixth respectively among EU producers. The production of fruit, vegetables and mushrooms is the main source of income for around 160,000 of commercial farms in Poland. And for thousands of farms, fruit and vegetable production is a supplementary source of income.

In its report Fruit and Vegetable Market – Current Situation and Prospects, the Institute of Agricultural and Food Economics predicts that this year’s fruit and vegetable harvests should be very good in Poland. The institute has estimated that Polish growers will this year harvest a total of 3.060 million tons of fruit, compared with 2.738 million tons last year, including 2.645 million tons of tree fruit—a rise of 17 percent in year-on-year terms. It is also estimated that Polish farmers will harvest less soft fruit than last year—415,000 tons versus 526,000 tons. The apple harvest will be an estimated 20 percent, or around 2.3 million tons, up on last year.

This year, Polish farmers are expected to produce 5.515 million tons of vegetables, compared with 5.010 million tons in 2010, including 4.8 million tons of field vegetables and 715,000 tons of greenhouse vegetables. Last year, Polish farmers harvested 4.25 million tons of field vegetables and 760,000 tons of greenhouse vegetables.

Fruit, vegetable and champignon mushroom growing is an important segment of agricultural production in Poland. Although no more than 3 percent of farmland is used in Poland to grow fruit, vegetables and champignons, they account for 36 percent of the country’s commercial plant output and 14-15 percent of the total commercial farming output. The value of vegetable, fruit and champignon exports, both fresh and processed, exceeded 2 billion euros in 2010. As regards fruit, Poland produces mainly apples, cherries and soft fruit. Cabbages, carrots and onions account for the largest part of field vegetable harvests, while tomatoes are the main greenhouse vegetable. The production of champignons has exceeded 200,000 tons in recent years and is expanding rapidly.

A further expansion of fruit and vegetable production in Poland will be possible on condition that more of these exports are designated for immediate consumption rather than processing. At present, more than 50 percent of fruit is intended for processing. Only 16 percent of fruit harvested in Poland is exported to the dessert fruit market. Thirty percent of field vegetables are intended for processing and only 9 percent of vegetable exports are intended for immediate consumption.

The prices of fruit, vegetables and champignons intended for immediate consumption are much higher than the prices of the same products for processing. Most fruit and vegetable processing plants in Poland are owned by large multinational companies, which acquire cheap products here for processing. As a result, the profitability of such production has decreased. On the international market, Polish fruit preserves—for example strawberry preserves—despite their excellent quality, have great difficulty competing with exports from such countries as China.

It seems that Poland should now focus on expanding production of fruit and vegetables intended for immediate consumption. After joining the EU, and the removal of customs duties and other administrative barriers, there are big opportunities for Poland to expand production and exports on this market. These opportunities have so far remained untapped by Polish producers and exporters. The Polish fruit and vegetable sector has large potential to expand exports to EU markets. A good example is the EU champignon market where Polish producers are the leading exporters. There are similar opportunities on the market for dessert cherries, strawberries and apples and the market for some vegetables, like cauliflowers and broccoli.

Experts say that in order to expand the production and exports of fresh fruit and vegetables, the market must be organized efficiently and exports must meet specific requirements in terms of quality, quantity and delivery. The sale, transport and delivery of fruit and vegetables to consumers on demanding markets is only possible if modern packaging systems are used and modern logistics rules applied. It is important for producers’ associations (and producers not belonging to associations) to promote Polish-grown fruit and vegetables on the domestic market and especially on foreign markets. EU and domestic funding is available for modern and effective marketing and promotion.
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