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The Warsaw Voice » Special Sections » September 30, 2013
Polska…tastes good!
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A Time to Reap
September 30, 2013   
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by Stanisław Kalemba, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development

The end of summer and the beginning of autumn mark the end of the crop production season. Traditional harvest festivals have been held across Poland. This the only time of the year when everybody remembers farmers and speaks highly of them. Too bad this period is so short. Agriculture is the only branch of the economy so highly dependent on the weather. A hurricane, a torrential downpour or a hailstorm can ruin months of hard work by farmers in a matter of seconds. Unusually turbulent weather is becoming increasingly frequent across the world. A farm destroyed by the raging elements is expensive to rebuild, often more than a farmer can afford. I believe it is high time that solutions to this problem should be sought by the EU as a whole. We should jointly review the current insurance system, which is not working very well anywhere. Rather than being obligatory, this should be a system in force everywhere, because only then could it ensure efficient help for all those who need it.

The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) governs a great many issues linked to agricultural production. The time has come to consider whether CAP rules should also cover the insurance of crops and farm animals. Much is being said about environmental protection and about making the Common Agricultural Policy more “green.” This is also the approach we should adopt with regard to present-day challenges brought about by climate change. After all, rebuilding a devastated farm is like rebuilding part of the natural environment. I am convinced that after negotiations on the 2014-2020 EU budget are completed and guidelines are finally adopted, the insurance issue should also be addressed.

Late summer and early autumn are also the time of the Polagra fair in Poznań, the largest food fair in this part of Europe. This year’s Polagra drew around 1,000 exhibitors from across the globe, testifying to the importance of the event. Poland has tremendous potential when it comes to agricultural production. We are Europe’s largest producer of apples and champignon mushrooms, the second largest producers of rye and potatoes, the third largest of sugar beet, rape seed and poultry and fourth largest producer of wheat and milk. A change for the better has been also taking place in the distribution of arable land in Poland. The average Polish farm is almost 10 hectares in size at present, while in 2002 the figure stood at less than 6 hectares. The findings of the 2010 agriculture census revealed a 34-percent increase in the number of large farms at least 50 hectares in size. The value of agricultural production has been on the rise, growing from just over zl.63 billion in 2005 to almost zl.104 billion in 2012, a 65-percent increase. Data shows that the revenue of the agricultural sector grew from zl.18.3 billion in 2005 to zl.36.6 billion in 2011, and the 2012 total is estimated at zl.33.3 billion.

The number of modern farms managed by young and well-educated farmers is on the up. Such farms perform just as well and frequently even better than those in other EU countries. Successful examples include dairy producers in many Polish provinces, the eastern Podlasie province in particular, and Polish fruit farmers, poultry breeders and producers of champignon mushrooms and vegetables. Given this, Poland continues to perform well in terms of selling food and agricultural products abroad. Statistics for 2012 and the first half of 2013 show that this sector of the Polish economy is holding strong internationally. Since 2005, the value of the exports has increased from 7 billion euros to almost 18 billion euros in 2012.

Polish food is well known across Europe and it has been increasingly successfully at finding its way to more distant markets. This is thanks to the hard work of farmers and food processing businesses, quality produce and cutting-edge food processing technology. Effective promotion, efforts to ensure Polish food has a good press abroad, and a supportive foreign policy have played a part as well.

In the previous issue of this magazine, I encouraged readers to visit Poland and I hope I succeeded. Visiting Poland is the best way to experience the quality of Polish food for yourself. Despite occasional critical voices which are very unfair to Polish producers, Polish food not only tastes great, but is also safe. I trust that in the future, whenever any doubts arise they will be clarified by the authorities in the country in question before any such information makes its way to the press. I might mention the so-called horsemeat scandal: accusations were initially leveled against Poland but, after the matter was thoroughly investigated, it turned out that somebody else was responsible.
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