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The Warsaw Voice » Special Sections » November 28, 2013
Polska... tastes good!
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Another Record Year?
November 28, 2013   
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By Stanisław Kalemba, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development

I have taken part in many important and interesting international talks this autumn. In Moscow, the talks took place in a very friendly atmosphere and we agreed that, should any irregularities arise, each case would be approached individually and then quickly investigated and cleared up. I am convinced that face-to-face conversations like those produce the best results. Oversights can happen when trade takes place on such a scale, but they can and have to be accounted for right away. The Russian Federation is Poland’s largest trade partner in the East and exports of Polish agricultural and food products to Russia have been growing fast. We are keen to strengthen ties between our agricultural sectors and that can be seen in the fact that Russia and Poland have decided to become partner countries during the Golden Autumn fair in Moscow and the Polagra fair in Poznań in 2015. Our joint efforts to establish wholesale markets in the Russian Federation are looking promising as well.

In October, I joined the Polish prime minister and other delegates on a visit to Africa. I had a series of conversations in South Africa. During a meeting in Pretoria, we discussed the conditions for Polish products gaining access to the South African market, where food prices are still high. I noticed considerable interest in Polish dairy products and five companies from Poland were interested in exporting poultry to South Africa. The talks in Africa also concerned further development of joint academic projects, including student exchange programs. South Africa can be regarded as a gate to other African countries and it is crucial to foster ties between South Africa and Poland in order to strengthen the presence of Polish agricultural and food products in Africa.

In a sort of follow-up to our trip to Africa, a delegation from the Republic of the Congo later came to Poland. I talked with my guest Rigobert Maboundou, the country’s minister of agriculture and livestock, about pursuing bilateral trade in agriculture, especially projects conducted jointly with Polish research institutes. I suggested considering educational opportunities for students from his country to study at agricultural universities in Poland. Minister Maboundou told me that the agricultural sector in his country needed to be modernized on many levels, especially when it came to ensuring food safety. He added that the Republic of the Congo was willing to learn from Poland’s experience. The minister and the other delegates visited the Institute of Genetics and Animal Breeding of the Polish Academy of Sciences (PAN) in Jastrzębiec near Warsaw and the nearby production facility of the Nasz Sad (Our Orchard) Cooperative Producer Group in Pabierowice.

The above facts show that we are searching for new markets for Polish products and are working hard to ensure greater opportunities for Poland abroad. We need to remember that the agricultural and food sector is a pillar of the Polish economy. Let me just mention that Poland is a major agricultural producer in the EU—the largest producer of apples and champignons in the bloc, the second largest producer of rye and potatoes, and the third largest of sugar and rapeseed. Preliminary data for the first ten months of this year suggests that this year, Poland could become the third, if not the second, largest poultry producer in the EU.

Poland’s agricultural exports are thriving. Over the first eight months of 2013, they were worth 12.6 billion euros, which was 12.7 percent up on the same period last year. Imports totaled 9.1 billion euros (3.4 percent up), which resulted in a trade surplus of 3.5 billion euros (48 percent up). According to recent forecasts, the surplus could reach between 4.8 and 5 billion euros at the end of this year, with sales totaling 18.5-19 billion euros. In other words, this will be another record year.

Given the above, it is worth taking a look at how Polish food has been doing in Poland’s neighbors to the south, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Data from these two countries shows that the results of the recent negative PR campaign against Polish food on the Czech and Slovak markets are opposite to what was intended. As it turns out, Polish agricultural exports to these countries are continuing to increase, while imports from the Czech Republic and Slovakia are down. I hope this will be food for thought for anyone intent on further slandering Polish food.
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