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The Warsaw Voice » Special Sections » April 25, 2013
Polska… tastes good!
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Food Quality: Find Out for Yourself
April 25, 2013   
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by Stanisław Kalemba, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development

Compared to many European countries, farming in Poland is geographically dispersed. Contrary to what might be expected at first glance, this is a huge advantage in terms of the environmental impact of farms. That’s because Poland does not have great expanses of land under monoculture cultivation and substantial genetic diversity of both plants and animals, i.e. biodiversity. This fosters the development of organic farming. Furthermore, in the past farmers could not afford fertilizers and chemical pesticides on the scale practiced in Western Europe. Thanks to this, Poland has an environment free of vestiges of pesticides as well as clean water resources, while the traditional character of rural areas has been preserved. These are qualities that neatly dovetail with organic farming guidelines , not just in terms of production of high-quality food but also in terms of the environmentally-friendly role of agricultural production and the preservation of plant species and animal breeds adapted to local environments.

These conditions have enabled organic farming to develop rapidly in Poland. As of Dec. 31, 2012, organic certification organizations oversaw almost 26,400 producers in Poland, compared to 23,500 the previous year.

The size of organically farmed areas grew 11-fold 2003-2012 and today totals 660,000 hectares (605,000 hectares in 2011, currently about 3.3 percent of total farmland in Poland). The average size of organic farms today is just over 26 hectares, while the national average is 10 hectares for conventional farms. The number of organic processing plants has also increased, from 270 in 2011 to 314. This shows that the amount of organic ingredients available on the market is growing.

At the same time, Polish organic farming is still a sizable source of ingredients for food processing in Europe, mainly Germany. The main Polish organic products are cereals and eggs, their organic versions being available at almost every larger store. More and more fruit is also produced organically, especially apples.

It’s no wonder then that, with such farming conditions at their disposal, farmers supply produce of excellent quality to processing plants, which, coupled with the advanced systems at those plants, enables Poland to achieve great results in foreign trade in agri-food products.

This could also be the reason behind the recent attacks on Polish food, especially from our southern neighbors. We all operate within the European Union and have to follow the same criteria regarding food production and control. That’s why media reports discrediting the quality of Polish food have come as a surprise.

I am convinced that the best thing to do is to come and see the quality of our food right here, in Poland.

One good opportunity would be to visit Poland, or even better, to spend a vacation at one of the many agri-tourism farms here. They are great for relaxation and also for sampling various regional delicacies.

There is an extensive range of locations on offer. This was easy for visitors to see at the Fifth Agrotravel International Fair of Rural and Agricultural Tourism held in Kielce in early April. Every year this trade fair brings together more than 150 exhibitors and 20,000 visitors. This year it had a record number of foreign guests from national rural area networks in Europe and from diplomatic missions.

Agrotravel is the biggest exhibition event promoting rural tourism. At the same time, it is a platform for exchanging thoughts and ideas in this segment of the economy. The fair was accompanied by many fringe events, to mention an international conference on tourism-related infrastructure and its impact on the development of rural areas, numerous workshops for service providers and rural leaders, study visits for reporters, officials from the Polish National Rural Network (KSOW) and guests, a marketplace for selling traditional products and a culture zone.

I am sure many people will take advantage of what was on offer. I hope that tourists to rural areas will include more and more foreign guests. I have no doubt that they will not only be able to relax in excellent conditions but will also learn much about Poland’s wealth of customs and our enormous culinary heritage. It is best to come and find out for yourself what the quality of Polish food is like. This, in fact, is truly excellent and the food tastes great. Moreover, many unique dishes from Poland’s extensive cuisine are waiting to be discovered by tourists.

I invite and encourage everyone to take advantage of such opportunities to form their own opinion about Polish food.
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