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The Warsaw Voice » Special Sections » September 30, 2013
Polska... tastes good!
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Growing Taste for Polish Food
September 30, 2013   
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Polish food is enjoying unabated popularity abroad. Poland’s agri-food exports were worth a record 17.9 billion euros in 2012, growing 17.5 percent from 2011. The balance of trade for the food sector was also impressive at about 4.3 billion euros. In the first half of 2013, exports grew 13.8 percent over the same period last year, reaching 9.3 billion euros. And that means the value of exports for the full year 2013 may set a new record.

Agri-food exports play a growing role in Poland’s overall exports. Last year, agri-food exports accounted for 12.5 percent of Poland’s overall exports, up from 11.1 percent in 2011. The high agri-food exports can in part be attributed to the fact that Poland is still able to produce food that is relatively cheap, which has become especially important at a time of economic slowdown. This would not be possible, however, without modernizing production facilities. In recent years, billions of zlotys have been invested in food processing plants across the country, with the biggest investment boom in the meat, poultry, milk and fish sectors. Today Poland’s agri-food sector is one of the most modern in the world, and Polish agri-food products meet top quality requirements.

Among all the foreign markets to which Polish agri-food products are sold, the biggest exports were to Germany. These totaled 2 billion euros in the first half of the year, an increase of 20 percent over the first six months of the previous year. Britain came in second among Poland’s largest food export markets, with almost 700 million euros. Compared with a year earlier, this was an increase of 12 percent.

Exports to Russia are also growing fast. Their value in the first six months of this year exceeded 640 million euros, an increase of 21 percent over the first half of last year. In terms of the Russian market, Polish producers are helped by prices that are lower than in Western Europe. The competitive edge of Polish food exporters over producers from America or Australia is strengthened by the relative closeness of Russia, which keeps transport costs down.

Sales of Polish food in the Czech Republic and Slovakia continue to grow as well, despite a negative PR campaign there and the fact that the quality and safety of Polish produce was recently questioned in these countries. Polish food exports to the Czech Republic totaled 544 million euros in 2012, 7.1 percent more than a year earlier, ranking that country fifth in terms of Poland’s largest export markets for agri-food products. Exports to Slovakia increased by 18.5 percent to 319 million euros.

Market studies show that Poland’s exports to the Commonwealth of Independent States and to Asian markets are growing as well. These are very large markets that look promising for Polish exporters. Noticeable export growth has also been reported in the Middle East: Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Jordan and Yemen. But the greatest increase in the value of exports this year has been recorded in trade with China, according to the Agriculture Ministry. These exports were four times higher than last year, chiefly due to an increase in pork sales. Increased pork exports were also a major factor behind Poland’s improved trade balance with Japan, where Polish agri-food product sales increased by 44 percent.

In turn, exports to Saudi Arabia rose 23 percent, chiefly due to increased sales of wheat. Poland’s agri-food exports to Bulgaria, meanwhile, increased by 42 percent thanks to higher sales of poultry meat, dairy products (mainly powdered milk), and coffee. On the other hand, exports to Turkey declined by 61 percent, mainly due to changes in tariffs on beef imports into that country.

The commodity structure of Poland’s agri-food exports is dominated by livestock, meat and meat products, dairy products, baked goods, confectionery products and chocolate, fruit and vegetables, cigarettes, and smoked fish. These are popular with both traditional long-term customers and new markets won by Polish manufacturers in recent years.

In the first half of this year, a total of 730,000 tons of meat and meat products worth a combined 1.7 billion euros were exported from Poland. Poultry meat exports totaled 500 million euro, beef exports 435 million euros, and pork exports 413 million euros. The value of dairy exports (excluding ice cream) was 765 million euros, including 320 million euros for cheese and curd, 220 million euros for milk and cream, and 100 million euros for whey.

Other key Polish food exports are baked goods and confectionery products (475 million euros), chocolate (415 million euros), fresh and processed fruit (985 million euros), fresh and processed vegetables (600 million euros), cigarettes (650 million euros), and fish (620 million euros).

Statistics for Poland’s trade of agri-food products confirm the high position of Polish food on foreign markets in both 2012 and the first half of this year. Since 2005 the value of Poland’s food exports has increased 2.5-fold, from 7.1 billion euros in 2005 to 17.9 billion euros in 2012. Of special note is that the role of unprocessed produce in Poland’s exports is decreasing in favor of highly processed foodstuffs.
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