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The Warsaw Voice » Special Sections » October 31, 2013
Polska… tastes good!
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Polish Cheese Popular Abroad
October 31, 2013   
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Poland is stepping up exports of cheese and curd, which are increasingly winning over consumers abroad with their taste and quality. Meanwhile, domestic demand for such products is also growing.

Poland’s dairy exports have increased almost fourfold since the country joined the European Union in 2004. The dairy sector is one of the leading segments in Poland’s agri-food sector in terms of exports. This is primarily because of a ready supply of milk and the efficient use of cash from Brussels both before and after Poland became a member of the EU.

A report by the Foreign Agriculture Markets Monitoring Unit at the Foundation of Assistance Programs for Agriculture (FAMMU/FAPA) notes that Poland’s foreign trade in dairy products has been increasing continually since 2010. Last year Polish producers sold over 1.4 billion euros worth of goods abroad, 3.4 percent more than in 2011. The dairy industry has recorded even better results in exports this year. According to the Polish Ministry of Finance, in the first six months of this year, Polish dairy product sales abroad totaled 765.4 million euros, growing by almost 15 percent from the first half of last year.

The increase is mainly due to larger shipments of dairy products to Russia—these rose by over 60 percent to 56.9 million euros. Still, statistically speaking, the European Union as a whole remains Poland’s number one trading partner, accounting for 74 percent of the country’s total exports in terms of value. In the first half of this year sales to EU countries increased by almost 21 percent to 566.2 million euros.

In terms of types of goods, cheese and curd exports continue to grow fast. In the first half of this year, these exports increased by over 17 percent compared with the same period of last year, to 98,700 metric tons. As a result of high prices on international markets, the increase in value terms was even greater, reaching 22 percent year on year, to 317.6 million euros. This year, Russia has become the main export market for Polish cheese and curds (last year Russia was in third place, behind the Czech Republic and Germany): 12,800 tons of cheese (up by 48 percent in year-on-year terms) with a total value of 45 million euros (up by 57 percent in year-on-year terms) was exported to Russia in the first half of this year.

Poland is a big cheese on the world cheese market. Only the United States, Germany, France, the Netherlands and Italy make more cheese. The biggest buyers of cheese from Poland are fellow EU countries (70 percent in value terms). But recently major increases have been noted in exports outside the single EU market. In particular, the value of Poland’s cheese exports to Russia and Ukraine has grown considerably. In addition to European countries, Polish cheese and curd products have won over consumers in Saudi Arabia and Indonesia as well as Iraq.

Last year was successful for Polish cheese exporters. But this year should be even better, as evidenced by the figures for the first half of the year. According to estimates by the National Association of Dairy Cooperatives, Polish cheese and curd exports this year could be worth up to 700 million euros. At the end of the year, cheese is expected to account for 46-48 percent of total dairy exports, a figure that could subsequently rise to 50 percent in the following years. Ripening cheese is a Polish export hit. But other types of cheese and curd are also gaining recognition on international markets due to their high quality and vitamin, mineral and nutrient content.

Polish cheese and curd producers are happy not only because their exports are growing, but also because domestic consumers are increasingly reaching for these products as well. And the growth potential on the domestic market is substantial because average annual consumption of cheese in Poland per capita is still far from the EU average. It stands at 11.4 kg, which is about 33.3 percent less than the EU average. But this is not the lowest level of consumption in Europe. In this area, Poland outperforms countries such as Slovakia, Spain and Ireland. Among EU countries, per capita consumption of cheese is the highest in France (at 26.3 kg), followed by Greece (23.4 kg), and Germany (22-22.9 kg).

The good news is that per capita consumption of cheese in Poland has grown since 2006. However, this growth has been slow, at only 7.5 percent from 2006 to 2011. Studies show that Polish consumers most often eat hard and cottage cheese, while soft cheeses (blue cheese and feta) are less popular.
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