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The Warsaw Voice » Special Sections » March 3, 2014
Polska… tastes good!
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Agricultural Exports on the Up
March 3, 2014   
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by Stanisław Kalemba, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development

I have very good news about Polish exports of agricultural and food products last year. In total, these exports were worth 19.957 billion euros. Agricultural exports grew rapidly—up 11.5 percent on 2012, an increase which was much greater than the increase in Polish exports as a whole (6.5 percent). Exports of agricultural and food products also accounted for a larger part of total exports than before. In terms of value, they grew from 12.5 percent of Poland’s total exports in 2010 to 13.1 percent last year. The agricultural sector has become increasingly important as far as the entire Polish economy is concerned, which can be clearly seen in the data on sales of Polish agricultural and food products abroad.

While Poland has been exporting goods to a growing number of locations around the world, the EU still remains the largest importer of Polish food, accounting for 78 percent of food exports. Germany, our neighbor to the west, is the largest buyer among EU member states and last year it imported products worth 4.545 billion euros. Britain came in second in the EU at 1.494 billion euros, followed by the Czech Republic, France, Italy, the Netherlands and Slovakia. In terms of total export value, the third largest importer of Polish food is the Russian Federation, which bought goods worth 1.252 billion euros.

All the above figures are the result of the hard work of farmers, food processing plants, enterprises and exporters as well as all services responsible for food quality and food safety. In fact, many generations have worked for the success we see today. Among those people was Prof. Szczepan Pieni±żek who, if he were still alive, would have recently turned 100 years old. Pieni±żek and his team laid the foundations for modern fruit farming in Poland. Thanks to their work, Poland today is among the world’s top producers of apples and apple juice.

In order to make sure that Poland’s agricultural sector continues to develop at the present rate, we have been carefully preparing for the new Rural Development Program for 2014-2020. The program has been restructured to conform with the requirements of the European Commission, hence its division into measures, sub-measures and scopes. The second draft of the 2014-2020 Rural Development Program contains 14 measures. Funds available as part of the program will be mainly targeted at strengthening competitiveness. The program’s main measure is “Investment in fixed assets at farms,” the most important sub-measure being “Modernization of farms.” The other sub-measures are “Produce processing and marketing” and “Arable land consolidation.”

The Rural Development Program will include support for young farmers and funds to restore the potential of agricultural production and stimulate economic development and business. Funds will be also available for basic services and renovation in towns and villages and as payments to less favored areas and the Leader program. They will be also used to help establish producer groups and organizations and conduct agri-enviromental and climate projects.

As I write about the Agriculture Ministry’s current activities, I need to mention the first case of African swine fever (ASF) found in a wild boar in Poland. After ASF hotbeds were found in Belarus, a prevention program was launched in Poland in July 2013 to enable early detection of ASF virus infections and spread information about the risk of the disease occurring in Poland. The program is being continued this year. All services in Poland such as the Chief Veterinary Inspection and the National Veterinary Research Institute in Puławy have been working together in a coordinated manner.

What has to be stressed is that ASF is not transmittable to humans. Still, this a dangerous and highly infectious disease that affects domestic pigs of all breeds and wild boars. It also causes tangible financial losses. Following a motion submitted by me and by Lithuania, we discussed the disease Feb. 17 in Brussels at the most recent meeting of EU ministers responsible for agriculture and fisheries. I spoke about preventive measures that Poland’s veterinary services have taken since February 2011 and the first case of an ASF infection found in a wild boar in Poland near Poland’s border with Belarus. I called on the European Commission to take efficient action to help lift barriers to sales of pork to the Russian Federation and other non-EU countries. I also asked the Commission to back measures aimed at preventing the ASF virus from spreading. I said that the role of the European Commission needed to be strengthened or else the financial losses would increase. On the following day, the European Commission announced that a buffer zone had been established in Poland, thanks to which pork from other parts of the country can be exported to the EU market.
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