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The Warsaw Voice » Special Sections » March 31, 2015
Polska…tastes good!
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Dialogue and New Markets
March 31, 2015   
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By Marek Sawicki, PhD, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development

The Russian embargo is still in effect and my opinion on what the European Commission has done about it remains unchanged. The Commission stepped in too late and the resources it proposed were too sparse. It has been seven months since the embargo was imposed and the situation has slightly improved. The second and third tranche of financial support has been disbursed to producers of fruits and vegetables and you could say better late than never. Brussels has also understood what I’ve known for a long time: it was high time to take firm action on other agricultural markets, including the markets for pork and milk. Support for private storage of sides of pork has been introduced. Unfortunately, all these are only short-term measures and what is lacking is a stronger measure such as subsidies for exports. Such subsidies would make sure that pork could be regularly sold on markets outside the EU. Private storage aid will soon end and without subsidies, things will change for the worse again. Meanwhile, trouble on Poland’s agricultural markets continues.

The aftermath of the Ukrainian crisis has mostly hit farmers, Polish farmers in particular. Poland is a major European producer of food and as far as unprocessed food is concerned, markets in neighbor countries are crucial. With this in mind, I have been going to great lengths to allow Polish dairy producers to receive the same kind of support that has been offered to dairy producers in the Baltic states. The European Commission is dividing countries into different categories, which never does EU agriculture any good. Tardy measures had sorry results in the past, when after some time they turned out to be insufficient and had to be intensified, which took much bigger funds, amid a deteriorating public mood.

I am puzzled by the attitude of EU officials, who took such a long time to decide on fines that dairy farmers would pay for exceeding milk production quotas. We now finally know the fines will be split into installments paid over three years. Since the quota system will be soon abandoned and the situation on the milk market does not look good, I will seek to extend the installment plan to five years.

For all these difficulties, I am proud of Polish food producers and food processing companies. The embargo has slowed down Polish food exports and yet exports are up.

Ever since I first took office at the end of 2007, I have tried to find new markets for Polish products, as I know the market in Russia is an uncertain one. My people have been tirelessly negotiating conditions on which different groups of products are granted access to individual markets. These things take time, but without all these efforts, the situation of Polish agriculture would be much worse today.

Amid meetings with farmers, I was still able to recently pay an official to India. My Indian counterpart and I discussed veterinarian and phytosanitary issues and I also urged him to accelerate negotiations on procedures to allow Polish goods onto the Indian market. I encouraged joint work on consulting, education and food processing. We noted that despite our countries’ large potential, trade in produce between Poland and India was still insignificant. Poland is open for India and we expect reciprocity. Apart from dairy, pork and poultry products, we would like to interest Indian consumers in Polish apples. During the talks in India, I made the point that food from Poland is safe, healthy and of top quality. After all, Poland only uses a third of the amount of fertilizers used in other EU member states and around 75 percent of Polish food and agricultural exports go to the very demanding European market. I am convinced that in the near future, Indian consumers will be able to appreciate the benefits of Polish food themselves, just like consumers in countries around the world have done before.

Together with trade organizations and unions, we have been seeking ways to improve the financial standing of farmers, all in conformity with EU law. For now, many farmers in certain sectors need to subsidize their own production. We had over a hundred meetings with farmers and food processing companies in February alone, which shows we are determined to help them rather then just wait to see what Brussels decides. Poland was one of the first countries to submit its proposals regarding the 2014-2020 Rural Development Plan and is one of the first three countries to have completed negotiations on the plan with the European Commission.

I am confident that like in the previous years, Polish farmers will make very good use of the funds available to them. I do not think I need to convince anyone that the funds have been transforming Polish villages and rural areas. All visitors to Poland can see things are changing for the better and they are impressed by how rapid the changes are. At the same time, they appreciate Poland’s ability to preserve the natural beauty of rural areas. We are not afraid to work hard, but we certainly expect a prompter response to changes on different markets. We hope more solidarity will be shown by the EU in its contacts with other countries and we would like EU agriculture to be a shared responsibility.
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