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The Warsaw Voice » Special Sections » January 31, 2013
Polska… tastes good!
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Food Exports Set Record
January 31, 2013   
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by Stanisław Kalemba, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development

2013 is the final year in the European Union’s financial perspective for 2007-2013. Unfortunately, the EU budget for 2014-2020 has yet to be set. Neither do we have any final decisions on reforming the Common Agricultural Policy. The proposals put forward by the European Commission drew comments from practically all countries. The discussions continue, both bilateral and multilateral.

In mid-December 2012 I played host to France’s minister of agriculture, Stéphane Le Foll. Those were very good talks. We have a similar outlook on many issues as regards the main problems. Both Poland and France are in favor of increasing the amount of funding for both direct payments and the development of agriculture, the agri-food industry and rural areas. We believe that, on one hand, consumers have to be given a guarantee that European food is healthy and safe, that it meets the highest standards. On the other hand, farmers are required to fulfill requirements related to environmental protection and concern for the climate, and all this requires appropriate financial outlays.

We also agreed we would begin working jointly on our position regarding issues including the dairy sector in view of plans to abolish milk quotas, designating agriculturally disadvantaged areas (Less Favored Areas, LFAs) and support for protein-plant growing. This activity is motivated by our belief that common, uniform market requirements should also be reflected in a comparable level of payments.

A time of economic crisis cannot be an excuse for withdrawing from bolder reform of the CAP. Positive data on the condition of the U.S. economy that has been coming in since the start of the year could suggest the beginning to the end of the problems. Meanwhile, the reform of the CAP will define the rules according to which European agriculture will operate until 2020. And it is exactly this perspective we need to have when approaching the problem, and not the perspective of the coming year.

At the end of 2012 and start of 2013 Poland implemented EU regulations on genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Under these regulations and on the basis of the law on seed production passed by the Sejm, Poland’s lower house of parliament, trading is now allowed in MON 810 corn and Amflora potato seeds, i.e. material that has been approved by the EU.

At the same time, I would like to point out that based on the same law, two government orders have been issued that ban GMO cultivation in Poland. This means Poland will be free of such crops.

We have excellent conditions for developing organic farming and we use them to advantage. The growth rate for such farms is very high. In addition, agriculture in Poland, which is dominated by family farms, is conducive to sustainable farming. As a result, our agrifood products are very popular with consumers not only in Europe but more often now in other countries as well.

Last year was a record-breaking one in this respect. It is worth noting that food exports have grown by 300 percent over the past eight years. Data shows that the positive balance of international trade in agrifood products for the first 10 months of last year is already higher than for the whole of 2011, at more than 3.2 billion euros. At the same time, changes in the direction of exports were observed. The share of EU countries decreased slightly, meaning that Polish products are enjoying growing appreciation among consumers worldwide, particularly in Asia and the Far and Middle East.

Diversification of export directions also means that Polish producers and exporters have gotten much better at using available promotion methods. It is no secret that, to be successful, even the best product has to be introduced to the mass consumer. The fact that we have raw materials of very high quality, advanced processing plants and well-tested recipes—sometimes unchanged for centuries—does not necessarily guarantee success in new markets. Consumers have to be given the opportunity to taste and smell a product to be able to form an opinion of it.

I have no doubt that the next step will be a more open attitude toward Polish cuisine. Due to its geographical location and traditions of freedom and tolerance, our cuisine is full of many different influences from both East and West. The culinary traditions and diversity of Polish cuisine have yet to be discovered to the extent they deserve. Nevertheless, some change is visible already. Freedom of travel within the EU and Polish people’s extensive traveling means that not only our products but also our rich cuisine is following suit. I have often seen this personally during various meetings in Poland and elsewhere. I am convinced that a fashion for Polish cuisine will develop soon.

Meanwhile, today I encourage everyone to discover its richness and diversity of flavors. I invite you to enjoy traditional dishes and discover new, intriguing flavors, to respect and appreciate food of the highest quality.
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