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The Warsaw Voice » Special Sections » July 30, 2012
Polska… tastes good!
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Polish Fruit Hits the Spot
July 30, 2012   
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Polish fruit growers are stepping up their exports to Russia and other countries beyond Poland’s eastern border. They are also entering markets in Western Europe, Asia and North Africa. However, they are still having problems selling their produce to processing plants at a reasonable price.

Poland is a European powerhouse in the production and exportation of fruit. Consumers abroad particularly enjoy Polish seasonal fruit available in large quantities in the summer and early autumn. Data from the Central Statistical Office (GUS) shows that fruit consumption in Poland has remained stable in the last few years at around 55 kg per capita. Eighty percent of fruit consumed by Poles is of domestic origin and 20 percent, mainly citrus fruit and bananas, is imported.

The most common domestic fruit eaten by Polish customers are apples, representing around 30 percent of total consumption. Other popular types of fruit in Poland are pears, plums and berries.

Polish fruit is appreciated not only in Poland but throughout the world. It is valued for its unique taste and flavor, which it owes partially to traditional growing methods. Foreign consumers familiar with Polish fruit tend to describe it as good, clean and healthy.

Fruit contains the most nutrients when fresh. The role of fresh fruit in the diet of Polish people is growing steadily. The development of good eating habits among consumers is encouraged by the fact that Poland has for years been among countries leading the way in Europe in the production of fruit.

Apples account for more than 70 percent of the Polish fruit market, followed by currants and cherries, each with 6 percent. Polish apples account for 24-25 percent of all apples produced in the European Union. Poland is the largest producer of cherries in the EU and one of the largest in the world. The country is also a major producer of soft berry fruit, especially strawberries and raspberries, of which it is one of the largest suppliers within the EU.

However, the EU market is not the biggest market for Polish fruit. In 2010, Poland exported a total of 917,500 metric tons of fresh fruit worth 369.3 million euros. The bulk of the fruit (78 percent) went to markets in the Commonwealth of Independent States. In 2011, the total volume of Polish fruit exports was 772,700 tons and the total value was 393.1 million euros, according to the Foundation of Assistance Programs for Agriculture (FAPA) and the Foreign Agricultural Markets Monitoring Unit (FAMMU). Compared with 2010, Polish fruit exports fell by 15 percent in volume terms, chiefly due to a drop in deliveries to the CIS.

“The Russian market is the most important; we want to be able to sell even more produce there, especially as consumers in Russia and other countries of the former Eastern bloc are eating more fruit, a fact that makes us very happy,” said Mirosław Maliszewski, head of the Association of Polish Fruit Growers, in a statement for the Newseria news service. “We want Polish exporters and producers to play a major role in this trend. We are also slowly entering the Western European market and looking further afield as well, including markets in Asia and North Africa.”

Increased fruit consumption has enabled Polish apple producers to increase their production by several percent every year. As a result, the number of orchards in Poland has grown, unlike in other EU countries.

However, fruit growers face barriers such as unfavorable pricing policies on the part of buyers, which makes fruit production less profitable. “Supermarkets sometimes force us to sell fruit below our production costs and sell them anonymously,” says Maliszewski. “They give preference to their own labels rather than producer trademarks and brands.”

Some 50 percent of apples and 70-80 percent of cherries produced nationwide end up in processing plants.

About 50 percent of all fruit sold in Poland is sold at bazaars where there is a wide choice of produce in terms of types and varieties as well as quality and price. Fruit sold at bazaars comes mainly from small farms and is often sold by the producers themselves. Greengrocers also play a significant role in the sale of fruit. Large retail chains are another important distribution channel. It is estimated that some 30 percent of apples are sold in supermarkets and discount stores. However, only a limited number of fruit species and varieties can be bought there, and a lot of this produce is not up to scratch in terms of quality.

Sales of fruit by small stores have decreased in recent years. Wholesale markets, on the other hand, remain an important distribution channel for fruit. They mainly attract small store and stall owners, restaurants, hospitals and hotels, in addition to individual customers.

Roadside stalls are still an important place where consumers can buy various types of fruit. In the near future, consumers in both Poland and other EU countries are expected to be able to increase their purchases of fruit directly at a farm or from a producer group.
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