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The Warsaw Voice » Special Sections » January 31, 2013
Polska… tastes good!
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Polish Apples Go International
January 31, 2013   
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Poland is a top European producer and exporter of apples and one of the world’s largest producers of apple juice.

Apple trees and apples have always played a key role in fruit growing in Poland. Over the past several years, the annual production of apples has totaled 2.5-3 million metric tons, accounting for around 73 percent of total fruit production in Poland. More than half are industrial apples, used to make apple juice. The other half are table apples, grown for eating raw.

Apples are highly popular with Polish consumers. The average Pole eats 15-16 kilograms of apples a year, which accounts for a third of total fruit consumption in Poland. At over 2.5 million metric tons of apples picked each year, Poland is the number one European producer of the fruit, while its annual yield of 1.3 million tons of table apples puts Poland in third place after Italy and Turkey. Apples from Poland account for 3.5 percent of global apple production and for almost 25 percent of apples grown in the EU. Over 700,000 tons of Polish apples are exported, mostly to post-Soviet countries, Russia included. Exports to markets in the European Union have been low so far and so the EU is now the main target for Polish orchard owners planning to expand their sales abroad.

Apple production has increased remarkably in Poland over the past decade. Between 1980-2000, Poland produced an average of 1.5 million metric tons a year on average and exported between 200,000 and 250,000 tons of table apples. Things changed after 2000 thanks to apples from a new type of orchard with apple tree varieties which had never been grown on a commercial scale before. Such orchards had more than 2,000 trees per hectare.

Before 2009, Poland had a surplus of apples of inferior quality. Industrial apples accounted for around 60 percent of all apples on the domestic market until 2009 and a mere 40 percent of table apples met foreign standards. As a result, Polish producers were not competitive on the global market. Low-quality apples also prevailed in Polish stores, replacing apples of higher quality and driving prices down, both those offered to orchard owners and retail prices. Despite the lower prices, consumption was declining because the apples were of poor quality. Quality radically improved after 2009 and the proportion of table apples of superior quality rose from 40 to 60 percent, which has since clearly strengthened the competitiveness of Polish apples on the European market. Apples sold in Poland are also better now, which is a major success for Polish producers in the past three years. Poland has also become more competitive by growing varieties which are widely accepted in Europe, especially those called Gala, Golden Delicious, Sampion, Jonagold and Idared.

Polish producers are now also able to quickly get large, uniform shipments of sought-after varieties ready for delivery to remote places in Europe. They can do so thanks to newly established, large producer groups and organizations. There are 15 such large organizations in Poland at present, each with its own cold stores, trucks and sorting and packaging machines. None of that was available just a couple of years ago.

Polish apple orchards have an ever-growing production potential. Experts estimate that, over the past five years, Poland has gained almost 10 hectares of new, high-intensity orchards which can easily yield at least 40 metric tons of quality fruit a hectare. In normal weather, Poland can produce more than 3 million metric tons of apples, including 1.5-1.6 million tons of table apples.

Polish producers could even start to produce more table apples, provided they can find new markets and make sure exports to present buyers, especially those in Eastern Europe, are better organized. Aided by steadily improving fruit quality and a growing number of producer groups and organizations with cold stores and sorting and packaging devices, the exports of table apples could soar above 900,000 metric tons. This is possible thanks to dwindling imports from China and the high costs of shipping apples from overseas to Europe.

A top producer of apples, Poland is also a key player when it comes to apple processing. For many years, Poland has been a top three producer of apple juice internationally. It held the number three spot after the United States and China for many years, but last year it even outperformed the United States and came in second. That is particularly impressive given Poland’s size and population.

According to the Polish Association of Juice Producers, Poland produced 300,000 tons of concentrated apple juice last year, of which 250,000 tons went to export, mostly to Germany (95 percent).
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