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The Warsaw Voice » Special Sections » July 4, 2014
Polska... tastes good!
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Polish Food Exports to Muslim Countries on the Rise
July 4, 2014   
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Poland exported more food and agricultural products to non-European countries last year than in previous years. Exports to North Africa and the Middle East grew particularly rapidly.

Iran was the fastest growing market for Polish food in the Muslim world. Exports to that country rose 2.6-fold. Poland also sharply increased its exports to Egypt (84 percent), Iraq (77 percent), Libya (67 percent), Tunisia (52 percent), the United Arab Emirates (48 percent), and Saudi Arabia (42 percent). However, in the case of some other Muslim countries the upward trend reversed. Exports to Turkey dropped 66 percent last year compared with 2012, after Turkey canceled preferential duties for EU member states and the EU stopped offering refunds to exporters. Exports to Algeria decreased 24 percent due to dwindling sales of powdered milk.

Saudi Arabia was the largest importer of Polish food among Muslim countries last year. Exports to that country were worth 153 million euros. In terms of value, Poland’s top food and agricultural exports to Saudi Arabia were wheat, cheese, cottage cheese, confectionery and chocolate. The United Arab Emirates imported 85 million euros worth of Polish food, the main products being chocolate and cheese as well as cigars, cigarettes and cigarillos, which are classified as food in statistics. Algeria was the third-largest importer, buying 77.4 million euros’ worth of wheat and meslin as well as milk, cheese, malt extract and flour-based foods. Malt extract, flour-based foods and chocolate were the top Polish food exports to Turkey, which bought a total of 65.8 million euros worth of Polish food last year. Poland’s other major export markets in the region are Egypt, at 48.2 million euros, Iraq at 33.2 million euros, Kuwait at 16.3 million euros, and Iran at 16.1 million euros.

In total, Polish food and agricultural exports to Muslim countries were worth 500 million euros last year. Poland’s total food exports were worth 20 billion euros last year. After a meeting with ambassadors and diplomats from Algeria, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Iran and Lebanon in May, Poland’s minister of agriculture and rural development, Marek Sawicki, said this “still not enough.”

“Arab countries are developing rapidly and their growing import potential presents increased export opportunities,” said Sawicki. “We want Poland to have a presence on these markets,” he added.

Meeting participants discussed the terms on which Polish food could be exported to Muslim countries and what investment opportunities Poland’s food and agricultural sector presented to businesses from these countries. One recent problem with Polish food sales on markets in Muslim countries are the declining exports of Polish meat, beef in particular. According to Sawicki, the controversy over ritual slaughter is not the main reason. “Poland does not prohibit ritual slaughter, only slaughter where the animals are not stunned first,” Sawicki said.

During a press conference after the meeting, embassy officials said their countries were interested in increasing food trade with Poland. Rostam Adabina, first secretary of the embassy of Iran, said Iran and Poland have complementary agricultural products. “Iran buys a lot of food, for a total of $20 billion a year, which makes it sufficiently attractive as a market for Poland,” Adabina said.

Polish exports to Muslim countries could be stimulated through more extensive promotional campaigns. Projects to promote Polish food on international markets that started in 2009 are about to be intensified now that the European Commission has increased funding for promotion on markets outside the EU. As of this year, the annual EU budget for the promotion of food abroad increased from 50 million to 200 million euros, Sawicki said. In April, the European Commission decided to award some of the funds to a project undertaken jointly by the Fruit Union, an organization that brings together Polish fruit and vegetable distributors, and the Association of Polish Fruit Farmers. Tentatively scheduled for launch this autumn, the project will promote Polish apples in China and the United Arab Emirates. The volume of apples to be shipped to China has not been determined yet, but according to the Fruit Union, China is a promising market. As for the United Arab Emirates, the Fruit Union says the country will become a transportation and distribution hub from which Polish apples could be forwarded to North Africa, including Algeria, Egypt, Libya and Morocco.
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