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The Warsaw Voice » Special Sections » March 29, 2012
Polska… tastes good!
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Retailer Brand Vs. Producer Brand
March 29, 2012   
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By Marek Sawicki, PhD, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development
Globalization is everywhere. Some processes we cannot avoid. However, we need to think about finding a golden mean somewhere to reconcile the interests of different groups.

Experience related to the development of retail chains indicates many positive elements as well as numerous threats. It is no secret that Polish products - thanks to their quality and competitive prices - are present in international markets, for example through some retail chains. These chains have also contributed to the current impressive value of Polish farm and food product exports, which stood at 15 billion euros last year while the positive balance of trade hovers around 3 billion euros. Of course the fundamental factor affecting these successes are the changes that have taken place in Polish agriculture and food processing. Without modernized farms supplying very good quality raw ingredients and advanced processing plants, among the most advanced in the world, especially meat processing and dairy plants, it would not be possible to export almost one-third of agricultural output.

Half a billion consumers in the European Union, consumers who are well-informed and relatively affluent, choose products that guarantee quality and are distinguished by great flavor.

The departure from fast food toward traditional products, as observed today, contributes to an interest in Polish food. Traditional farming showing respect for the natural environment, which means farming without using chemicals excessively in production, guarantees excellent quality produce for further processing. A rich tradition of food production, old recipes and a very high technological standard not only make the end products safe but also ensure a high quality flavor and aroma. This is the reason why consumers say that Polish ham tastes like ham, eggs taste like eggs etc.

If that’s the case, it’s worth considering how to encourage retail chains to pay more attention to the brands of the companies whose products they distribute, to respect the asset that a given company’s brand constitutes. Retail chains should compete with service quality, a diverse range of products, low cost of sales, but consumers should receive complete data on the producer of a given food, on the product’s origin, in order to be able to make an informed choice.

Meanwhile, today’s consolidation at the retail trade level is progressing much faster than consolidation at the processing and farming level. In my view, this creates unequal conditions for competition on the market and also across the entire food chain.

This was one of the things we talked about during the Polish presidency [of the EU]. During the discussion on the Green Book we pointed out that food production, and food needs, processing and trade as well, need to be considered on three planes. They are: local consumers, regional consumers and the great global market. First, we should make sure that what can be produced locally is also sold there. This restriction of food transport will contribute to protecting the climate by substantially reducing carbon dioxide emissions. Secondly, on the regional market we need to see to the development of agricultural producer groups and also proper product promotion. On the third plane, that of the global market, we should address the world’s growing food needs.

Polish agriculture has very large potential. Farmers and processing companies have made excellent use of all pre-accession funding available to them and that coming from the mechanisms of the Common Agricultural Policy. It is thanks to these funds and the hard work of the beneficiaries that today we have very good agricultural raw materials and the most advanced processing plants. Organic farming is developing very rapidly. These changes have been and are possible because we decided in Poland to share CAP funds equally between pillars 1 and 2. The results of this approach have been very good and that’s why we are so strongly demanding a similar solution in the community’s reformed agricultural policy after 2013. It is obvious that only forward-thinking solutions, conducive to innovation, and not paying for readiness, can bring benefits to European agriculture and make it competitive on the global market.

We are competitive in terms of quality, flavor, product diversity, but let’s not be ashamed of producer brands and let’s give consumers the freedom to make informed choices about individual products.
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