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The Warsaw Voice » Special Sections » August 1, 2014
Polska… tastes good!
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Oozing Quality
August 1, 2014   
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By Marek Sawicki, PhD, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development

This year’s most important anniversaries are now behind us. We are happy with what we have achieved, but now is the time to focus on the future. With the new Rural Development Plan for 2014-2020 submitted for evaluation, we have presented new proposals regarding direct payments. Using our 10 years of experience, we have for the first time proposed a cohesive concept for two financial mechanisms that stem from the Common Agricultural Policy.

Our main proposal is to establish a permanent link between the market and as many farms as possible. This will ensure financial stability for the farms and offer them steady conditions for further development. Each member state can pick its own priorities in conformity with the general concept.

Poland is still working to catch up with the most developed countries. We have very good conditions to foster sustainable agriculture founded on small, family-run farms—conditions that are enshrined in the constitution. Poland’s other major asset is the high number of young farmers, which, at 14 percent of all farmers, is the highest percentage in the EU and almost twice the EU average. These young people are increasingly well-prepared for work. Many have a university-level education and they are keen to work in agriculture and expand their farms.

Aware of the above and of the need to increase food production in the coming years, we have proposed different support options. Now the time has come for broad consultation. Each variant is sure to have both advocates and opponents, but we will nevertheless need to choose the best solution to make sure that Polish agriculture can become more competitive. For that reason, we want more than half of the funds available under the 2014-2020 Rural Development Plan to be invested in developing agriculture. Furthermore, 25 percent of funds reassigned for direct payments should be made available to active agricultural producers. If funds available as part of the two pillars of the Common Agricultural Policy are correlated, they are likely to be spent more effectively. Proposed incentives to speed up changes in agriculture should help this process. Some of them are targeted at young farmers and others at those who want to quit agriculture and pursue other types of business.

Working on the new rules, we also aimed to come up with proposals to enable solutions that are as simple as possible and founded on objective and verifiable procedures. This is vital when it comes to beneficiaries and also crucial to cut administrative costs and reduce the risk of mistakes in the system. None of that was, sadly, achieved at the EU level while the Common Agricultural Policy was being reformed recently.

Agriculture, the food processing industry and rural areas have received around zl.180 billion so far. Anyone can see how these funds have changed Polish farms, food processing plants and living standards in rural areas and the changes are confirmed in reports released in conjunction with Poland’s 10th anniversary as an EU member state. We have a similar amount available until 2020, including EU support and national funds. The money needs to be spent effectively in order ensure further development, as the next EU budget may no longer be so generous to Poland.

Polish agriculture has very high potential and not all of its reserves have been used up yet. The most important thing is that as Poland develops, it preserves traditional rural landscapes and protects the environment. The sustainable development of this sector drives other branches of the economy. The excellent quality of Polish food and agricultural products has resulted in a trade surplus of 5.7 billion euros. A large part of our agricultural production is exported to almost all markets around the world. The main buyers are, of course, EU member states, Germany in particular. But export markets are gradually being diversified and Polish food is making its way to countries outside the EU, especially those in Asia, the Middle East and the Far East. Traditional food, whose variety of distinctive flavors is coupled with the highest quality, is a much sought-after commodity by consumers around the world and importers have been increasingly aware of that. This is only natural, seeing how growing numbers of consumers are ready to pay a higher price for food so long as it is made from natural ingredients prepared in a traditional way. Such products perfectly fit the increasingly popular trend for “slow food.”

It is a real shame that from time to time, we have to cope with unfair competition on some markets, where accusations are thrown at Polish food without the facts being checked first. Investigations show unequivocally that we have nothing to do with such malpractice. Accusations such as those could be a sign of the insecurity of some producers, whose food fails to match the quality and flavors of Polish food. Meanwhile, the quality of Polish products speaks for itself, which you can find out for yourself by coming to try the food here in Poland. Let me take this opportunity to encourage you to do just that.
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