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The Warsaw Voice » Special Sections » August 29, 2013
Polska… tastes good!
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Polish Apples an Export Hit
August 29, 2013   
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Poland is a major producer and exporter of apples, and this sector of farming has prospects for further development.

Apple trees and apples have played an important role since fruit farming started developing in Poland. In recent years, with production at 2.5 to 3 million metric tons a year, apples have accounted for about 75 percent of total fruit production. Industrial apples—from which juice is made—account for half the harvest. The rest are dessert apples for direct sale to consumers.

According to the Central Statistical Office (GUS), thanks to factors including last year’s exceptionally high harvest, when around 3.7 million tons of apples were gathered, Poland is currently the biggest apple producer in Europe and the third biggest in the world after China (25 million tons) and the United States (5 million tons). Polish production stands at about 100 kg per capita, compared with 20 kg per capita in China.

This year’s apple harvest could reach anywhere from 2.8 to 3 million tons. Industrial apples have a large share in Polish apple production, ranging from 50 to 60 percent, the highest proportion in the world. Over 95 percent of these apples are processed into apple juice concentrate. In the dessert apples category, there is still a high share of poor quality fruit, about 40 percent.

Polish apples started being exported in significant numbers after 1980. In the 1990s, exports totaled between 112,000 and 150,000 tons. Significant growth was observed after 2000. Up to 2011, exports fluctuated between 230,000 and 750,000 tons. The 2012/2013 season was a record one: Poland exported more than 1 million tons of apples, which was the best result in the world. The exported apples were worth about zl.1.4 billion. In the approaching season, Polish apple exports could total 750,000 to 800,000 tons.

The biggest buyers of Polish apples are countries in Eastern Europe, where about 80 percent of exports end up. However, apple exports to Western Europe, Arab countries and North Africa are growing. “Such high exports are made possible by the efforts of many producer groups and organizations,” says Prof. Eberhard Makosz, chairman of the Society for Promotion of Dwarf Fruit Orchards (TRSK). “When exports exceed 850,000 tons, we will be no. 1 internationally and have a dominating role on the European apple market. We have a competitive edge over many countries with high apple production and exports, mainly thanks to our production level, the improving quality of attractive apple varieties, and especially our low production costs and prices,” he adds.

Growing production has led to increased apple consumption in Poland, but even so, the average Pole eats much less fruit than people in other European countries. As apple production increased, so did domestic consumption. For some years now, Polish apples have been available all year round at relatively low prices, their quality has been improving and they are safe in terms of health guidelines. In 1986, when about 2 million tons were produced, Polish people ate 24 kg of apples per capita. This high figure was influenced by the unavailability of tropical and citrus fruits. In later years, even though apple production grew, people did not eat more apples. In 2008 per capita consumption stood at 18 kg, and just 15-16 kg in 2010/2011. In 2012 it was 17 kg, still one of the lowest figures in Europe.

The main reason for low apple consumption in Poland is competition from tropical and citrus fruit and a surplus of low-quality apples on sale. Other reasons include a lack of proper information about the benefits of apples, including their health value, and of encouragement to eat more of them.

Meanwhile, Poland has been highly successful in the production and export of apples. It has played a dominant role on the European apple market for three years. The volume of Polish apple production and exports affects apple prices, and not just in Europe. The balance of trade is positive in international fruit trade. Few other foodstuffs report such good results. Polish apples are well known in Europe and are very popular. One in five dessert apples in Europe is a Polish apple; Polish consumers can enjoy apples all year round for the lowest prices in Europe.

Makosz says this success was founded on dwarf fruit orchards. They did not just change apple production and export volume, but also influenced the development of producer groups and organizations and the growing production of resources needed in apple production. “It is worth highlighting how these orchards affected the level of knowledge and enterprise as well as the mentality of apple producers,” Makosz says. “These are people who make quick decisions and adjust to new challenges and circumstances. The number of producers with extensive knowledge and a high level of entrepreneurship is growing, making them no different from the world’s best apple producers.” Furthermore Poland is one of a few countries—not only in Europe—with an opportunity for further apple production growth.

Experts say that the most important factors increasing the chances for development of apple production in Poland include slowly decreasing apple production in many countries of Western Europe, dropping apple imports to Europe from countries in the Southern Hemisphere and the Polish fruit farming sector’s competitive edge on the European apple market.

Poland is a country with good conditions for increasing its apple production. This could even exceed 4 million tons at profitable prices. A large area of the country is perfect for growing this fruit at lower unit costs. The acreage of high-output orchards with attractive apple varieties is growing. The quality of apples is improving. The number of producers with a high standard of specialist knowledge and enterprise is on the rise.

A lot of help is offered by Polish fruit farming science and economics. The country also has well-developed fruit nurseries, processing plants and wholesale markets. But these opportunities cannot be fully utilized unless producers make an effort to improve the quality of apples produced in Poland. The volume and profitability of exports and the consumption of apples in Poland depends on this.
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