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The Warsaw Voice » Special Sections » December 19, 2013
Polska…tastes good!
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An Apple a Day
December 19, 2013   
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By Stanis³aw Kalemba, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development

Polish agri-food products continue to attract customers abroad. In the first nine months of 2013, Poland exported 14.4 billion euros worth of farm produce and foodstuffs, 12.3 percent more than in the same period of 2012. Since imports totaled 10.3 billion euros (3.8 percent up on the same period of 2012), the foreign trade surplus reached 4.1 billion euros, rising by an impressive 41 percent from the first nine months of 2012. Judging by this data and forecasts, by the end of last year the surplus may reach 4.8 billion or even 5 billion euros, with exports at anywhere between 18.5 billion and 19 billion euros. This means that 2013 probably marked another record year for Polish farm produce and foodstuff exporters.

We are proud of the achievements of Polish agriculture. This is a success for which farmers, researchers and food processing businesses have worked hard for generations. When it comes to exports, flagship Polish products include apples, which are a symbol of Polish agriculture and fruit growing.

Over the past several years, Poland has been selling around 720,000-830,000 tons of table apples abroad annually. In the 2012/2013 season, Polish apple exports were especially strong, at 1.2 million tons.

Poland is the largest producer of apples in Europe, a feat that had its beginnings many years ago. December 2013 marked 100 years since the birth of Prof. Szczepan Pieni±¿ek, a fruit growing expert who laid the foundations for modern pomology in Poland. In the early 1950s, Pieni±¿ek helped found the Institute of Pomology and Floriculture in Skierniewice near Warsaw, where research continues to support apple growing in Poland. I should also mention the Society for the Promotion of Dwarf Fruit Orchards and its contribution to modernizing Polish orchards. Poland owes its spectacular success in apple production and exports to dedicated people like those.

It’s good to see that table apples are gaining importance and now account for around 60 percent of all apples produced in Poland. In terms of table-apple exports, Poland topped global statistics in the 2012/2013 season, beating China, Italy and the United States. We are also the second largest producer of apple juice concentrate, after China. These figures make it only natural that apples are seen as a symbol of Polish agriculture.

The battle over the EU budget is over, while intense work and consultations are under way on the new Rural Development Plan for 2014-2020. We need to work out the best measures to make the most of the available funds. It is important that the funds are spent well to ensure progress and innovation, and that they allow Polish agriculture and food processing to continue to develop rapidly. All the while, we need to remember that a large part of Poland’s agricultural production is exported to various countries worldwide. Consequently, it is vital to never quit searching for new markets and maintain and strengthen our presence on the markets that we have.

January marks the beginning of a succession of trade fairs and exhibitions focusing on agriculture and the food industry. As usual, the first of them is the prestigious Grüne Woche (Green Week) in Berlin. Poland will be there, of course, because Germany is an important market for Poland and our largest partner in the trade of food and agricultural products. Polish agriculture has huge potential and there are still reserves that remain to be used to allow a further expansion in agricultural exports. We will show our wares at this year’s Grüne Woche event and they are likely to be as popular with visitors as in previous years.

One of the world’s largest trade fairs focusing on agriculture and food, Grüne Woche facilitates bilateral talks and meetings. This is an opportunity that is worth taking, because many issues in European agriculture need to be addressed. For example, we have to remember that the new EU budget will bring major changes to the markets for milk and sugar. Besides Europe lacks good ideas on how to prevent damage by adverse weather. Everyone essentially agrees that the weather in Europe is becoming increasingly turbulent. As this problem concerns most EU member states, it would be reasonable to get together and consider possible solutions as regards agricultural insurance. At the same time, we have to remember that the demographic changes that await the world will cause a sharp increase in the demand for food. This is something that farmers and food producers across Europe should be prepared for.
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