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The Warsaw Voice » Special Sections » November 25, 2011
Polska… tastes good!
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Common Agricultural Policy Reform and Polish Priorities
November 25, 2011   
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By Marek Sawicki, PhD, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development
This year has not been an easy one, with some of the most difficult harvests of the last four decades. Grain yields were lower than usual in many regions, with grain of inferior quality. The situation, naturally, looked different in different parts of Poland. Taken together, the harvest was close to the average of many years. We can thus rest assured we will not run out of grain.

Next year’s prospects for agriculture are good. The 2007-2013 Rural Development Program is under way and Polish farmers have been highly efficient in utilizing all kinds of EU and national funds that are available to them. As a result, Polish farms continue to modernize, as does the entire agricultural sector in Poland.

Unless some weather anomaly occurs, next year’s harvest is sure to be good. The way they always do, farmers started preparing for another year at their farms soon after harvest time. Unfortunately, agriculture remains a highly weather-dependent sector of the economy and that is the way it is going to be in the future. Needless to say, weather is a key determinant as far as plant production is concerned.

Complete data on foreign trade results has not arrived yet, but analyses from the first half of the year clearly indicate that the positive trade balance has increased and may reach up to 2.6-2.8 billion euros. This is a very positive trend which promises further opportunities for Polish agriculture to develop. This year, Poland has significantly increased sales of fruit and vegetables to Commonwealth of Independent States in the East which accounts for almost 80 percent of exports of fresh Polish apples.

The search for new markets and negotiating conditions on accessing markets is the task of the administration, whereas making the most of opportunities thus presented is the task of producers and exporters. As a large agricultural producer, Poland is able to develop its agriculture to closely match the growth of exports. Poland exports far more produce and food than it imports, which means that the production surplus is placed on external markets.

Decisions made this year should bring positive effects next year. What I mean here are the effects of the My Market program. When we launched it, we envisioned the establishment of around 300 modern marketplaces, including 200 modernized and 100 completely new ones. Judging by the interest we can see in districts, the marketplaces are sure to emerge, which will help ensure more civilized standards of sales and reestablish direct links between sellers and buyers. This will also create a superb opportunity to watch the prices, free from “disturbances” such as middlemen. This will mark a return to the roots of a healthy market economy where the relations between demand and supply are shaped by prices instead of speculation on commodity exchanges and excessive numbers of brokers.

We have also been working on regulations on insurance against sales risks, which should repair the damaged relations between individual links in the chain that leads from the producer to the broker and processing plant to the retailer.

One more project which is well under way and scheduled for continuation next year is the National Plan for Drainage and Flood Control Reconstruction. A plan like this has to be comprehensive and well thought out, as rivers have no respect for boundaries between villages, counties, provinces and countries and we all experienced the results of floods.

Poland will also conduct changes which have to be made to the insurance system concerning crops and farm animals. My idea is for this to be a common system which really extends to all farmers, but at the same time causes no extra burden for the farmers.

We need to remember that as a part of Europe, we have been faced with a crisis, especially when it comes to the eurozone. Poland is a member of the EU, which means that the overall situation in the EU takes its toll on the economic environment of Polish citizens.

Debate is still under way on changes to the Common Agricultural Policy after 2013. The policy will determine the position of European agriculture, and Polish agriculture along with it, for years to come. This is a crucial discussion and so taking advantage of the Polish presidency of the EU, I have proposed for the discussion to take an open format. The first public debate has already taken place at the European Parliament. What it has shown is that practically no country is satisfied with the legislation package proposed by the European Commission. Almost all participants in the discussion expressed concern over the negative impact the Commission’s proposal would have on plans to simplify the Common Agricultural Policy which were previously declared. The participants referred to the idea for the first pillar of the policy to “go green” and the plan to abolish the Single Area Payment Scheme (SAPS) in new member states.

More public debates will follow and I am convinced we can do better and work out a new and modern Common Agricultural Policy to foster the development of European agriculture. This should be a policy of development, innovation and competitiveness to face the challenges presented by the rapidly growing demand for food around the world. The discussion continues and no binding decisions have been made so far.
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