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The Warsaw Voice » Special Sections » June 27, 2013
Polska... tastes good!
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Boosting Food Exports
June 27, 2013   
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Polish exports of food and agricultural products were worth a record 17.5 billion euros in 2012, up almost 15 percent on 2011. Sales abroad are growing because consumers across Europe are impressed by the quality of Polish food. But support from various institutions, including the Ministry of Agriculture, has also played a significant role in developing the country’s food exports, experts say.

Despite an economic crisis in many of its key export markets, Poland continues to export massive amounts of food. In fact, Polish agri-food product sales are one of the fastest growing sectors of the economy. Polish food has a strong and stable position on European markets, which account for nearly three-quarters of Poland’s overall food exports. At the same time, intense efforts are being made to diversify the country’s export markets. Officials say Polish food exports are setting records despite a PR campaign against them and the fact that the quality and safety of Polish produce was recently questioned in Ireland, Denmark, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

In response to foreign media reports discrediting Polish produce, the Agriculture Ministry has taken steps to protect the reputation of Polish food. It has established a special team to ensure an efficient flow of information between institutions responsible for supporting and promoting agri-food products as well as institutions responsible for food promotion programs and producer organizations. The team is composed of veterinary inspectors and officials from the Ministry of Agriculture, the Agricultural Market Agency, the Food Council (Rada Gospodarki Żywno¶ciowej), the Agricultural and Food Quality Inspection Service, and the State Plant Health and Seed Inspection Service.

As part of the team’s work, the ministry says it has undertaken measures targeted at the Czech and Slovak markets in response to media reports in those countries denigrating Polish food products.

Measures undertaken include direct contact with consumers through the presentation of Polish products at trade fairs, exhibitions, picnics and study tours for foreign journalists. The Agriculture Ministry works with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in this area. Both ministries aim to work out ways of responding to media reports attacking Polish food.

At the same time, Poland’s Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Stanisław Kalemba has said that the ministry will not turn a blind eye to any shortcomings at any stage of the food production process. “We are sending a clear signal that there is no tolerance for reduced standards or to failure to pay attention to maintaining the high quality of Polish agri-food products,” said Kalemba. “Let us remember that the food industry is the only sector of our economy in which we are noting a constantly growing surplus in terms of foreign trade.”

Recent measures to raise the profile of Polish food are just one of many initiatives undertaken by the Ministry of Agriculture in a bid to promote exports. Polish producers owe their strong sales abroad and opening of new export markets to factors including their presence at international trade fairs.

One well-tested venue for promotion is the annual Polagra international food industry trade fair held in the western Polish city of Poznań under the auspices of the Polish Ministry of Agriculture. The event attracts exhibitors showcasing equipment for the food processing and catering industries, in addition to measuring and laboratory equipment as well as agri-food products. The fair is accompanied by public awareness efforts including consulting, specialized publications, conferences, science and technology seminars and press conferences. Each year special emphasis is placed on official visits by foreign delegations led by agriculture ministers from various countries. These visits are coordinated by the Polish Agriculture Ministry. While in Poland, these foreign officials meet with their counterparts from the Polish Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development to discuss opportunities for boosting sales of agri-food products.

A number of regional trade fairs focusing on food and agriculture are also organized in Poland under the auspices of the Ministry of Agriculture. These events attract both Polish and foreign exhibitors.

Together with its partners abroad as well as the economic and trade departments of Polish embassies in various countries, the Polish Ministry of Agriculture spreads word of trade fairs and exhibitions abroad among Polish businesses. It also helps organize Polish information stands at foreign trade fairs and provides information about business missions planned. One venue for advertising is the Grüne Woche (Green Week) trade fair in Berlin, Germany. Polish exhibitors have showcased their products there since 2001 as part of a national stand under the mottos of “Good Polish Food” and “Polska... Tastes Good.”

To support the development of agri-food exports, the agriculture ministry has developed and launched the “Good Polish Food” promotion program. Started in 2000, the program comprises two types of measures: identification of top-quality products based on domestic ingredients and labeling these products with a special emblem in order to promote them. Anyone producing top-quality foods from domestic ingredients has the right to apply for the “Good Polish Food” label. A board of scientists and experts on food processing, EU law and nutrition has specified quality and health requirements for each product group. So far more than 1,200 products have won the right to use the label.

The promotional efforts of the Agriculture Ministry as part of the “Good Polish Food” program include presentations at public events designed to familiarize the widest possible spectrum of consumers with the program’s objectives and label. The ministry also works to promote the program and the products it covers at domestic and international trade fairs focusing on food and agriculture. It also holds special meetings to promote the “Good Polish Food” program among consumer organizations, wholesalers and retail chains.

Other promotional efforts related to the “Good Polish Food” program include advertising in the media and publication of promotional materials (brochures and leaflets) in different languages. Despite a limited budget, these promotional efforts have already produced a number of positive results, the ministry says. The number of food producers interested in securing the “Good Polish Food” label for their products is growing. Thanks to a website and promotional materials sent abroad, the ministry says it is getting a lot of queries about the rules of the program and the availability of products with the “Good Polish Food” label.

The Ministry of Agriculture also aims to support agri-food exports through a program for the development of a network of wholesale markets and agricultural commodity exchanges and through the establishment of agricultural producer groups. Officials say that better organization of food production and distribution will help improve the competitiveness of Polish products on foreign markets.
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