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The Need to Find New Markets
May 7, 2015   
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By Marek Sawicki, PhD, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development

We are continuing efforts to find new markets for Polish food and agricultural products. I believe that seeking out new markets is the most important responsibility of every agriculture minister and such was my opinion when I became minister at the end of 2007. While the European Union remains Poland’s main partner, we need to find new buyers on markets outside the European Union, and our experiences last year related to the Russian embargo proved that.

I think some needed the embargo to finally realize that Russia is a capricious and unpredictable market.

Poland was slightly less affected by the Russian embargo than it could have been, thanks to an intensive promotional campaign that was launched for Polish food more than seven years ago. This shows in data on Polish exports of food and agricultural products. According to preliminary figures released by the GUS Central Statistical Office, Polish exports were worth a total of 163.1 billion euros between January and December 2014, which was 5.2 percent more than in 2013. Food and agricultural products accounted for 13.1 percent of total exports, which was slightly down from 13.2 percent in 2013.

A figure worth mentioning is Poland’s balance of trade. In total, Poland had a foreign trade deficit last year of 2.4 billion euros (2 billion euros in 2013), but as far as food and agricultural products were concerned, Poland boasted a surplus of 6.6 billion euros, which, despite the Russian embargo, was a higher figure than in 2013. Last year, Poland exported food and agricultural products worth 21.4 billion euros, which was 4.5 percent up from 2013. As usual, the majority went to Germany. Polish food and agricultural products sold to Germany were worth 4.8 billion euros, which was 2.1 percent up from 2013 (4.7 billion euros) and accounted for 22.5 percent of total Polish exports of foodstuffs last year. In terms of value, the best selling Polish food and agricultural products in Germany were poultry meat, smoked fish (mainly salmon), processed and canned fish, baked goods including cookies and wafer bars, rapeseed and rapeseed oil, fruit juices (mainly apple juice), milk, cream, wheat, maize, chocolate and chocolate products, frozen fruit (mainly strawberries and raspberries) and mushrooms (mainly champignons). These products accounted for 56 percent of Poland’s food exports to Germany.

Britain was the second-largest buyer of Polish food last year and imported products worth 1.6 billion euros, which was 5.8 percent more than in 2013 (1.5 billion euros). Exports to Britain accounted for 7.7 percent of all Polish exports of food and agricultural exports. Products sold to Britain were mainly chocolate and chocolate products, poultry meat, processed and canned meat (mainly poultry meat), salted and brined meat, sausages, wafer bars and cookies.

Poland was also busy last year trading with countries outside the EU. Polish exports rose the fastest to Morocco and increased more than fivefold from 16 million euros in 2013 to around 89 million last year, mainly owing to a spike in sales of wheat. High wheat exports also significantly boosted sales of Polish food and agricultural products to Saudi Arabia, Egypt, South Africa, Zimbabwe and Sudan. Last year’s exports to those countries were: 265 million euros to Saudi Arabia, 62 million euros to Egypt, 41 million euros to South Africa, 13 million euros to Zimbabwe, and 9 million euros to Sudan. Growing sales of powdered milk, in turn, increased the value of Polish exports to Algeria (210 million euros), Cuba (23 million euros) and Nigeria (22 million euros). High sales of pork doubled the value of Polish food exports to Hong Kong, which totaled 146 million euros (69 million euros in 2013). Poultry meat from Poland gained popularity in Benin, boosting Polish food exports to that country by 47 percent to 40 million euros. Poland also sold more food last year to Latvia, Croatia, Portugal, Turkey, Belgium, Cyprus, Kosovo, Syria and Malaysia.

The biggest earners for Poland in terms of exports were poultry meat, chocolate and cocoa-based products, baked goods (cookies, wafer bars, etc.), sugar syrups, pork, beef, cheese, smoked fish (mainly salmon), wheat, apples, fruit juices (mainly apple juice), processed and canned meat, powdered milk and frozen fruit. Exports of wheat and powdered milk rose the fastest between 2013 and 2014, 71 and 66 percent respectively.

These figures show how important it is to promote Polish food and continue a diplomatic campaign in which we negotiate access for Polish products to new markets and work to strengthen Poland’s presence on existing markets. It is also vital to increase the consumption of different groups of products here in Poland. As far as consumption per person is concerned, Poland still has a lot of catching up to do in many segments of the food market. I am confident the situation can change thanks to funds that were established in 2009 to promote Polish food. Poland has excellent products and is a leading global producer in several areas, especially in the soft fruit segment.

Meanwhile, parliament has passed a law that permits farmers to sell food they produce at their own farms directly to consumers without having to formally set up a business first. This is very good news for Polish farmers, but also for Polish consumers, who will now be able to buy fresh food straight from farms. I am convinced that this form of sales will also become popular with tourists who are coming to Poland in ever greater numbers and discovering our fantastic food.
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