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The Warsaw Voice » Special Sections » November 3, 2015
Polska... tastes good!
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Aid for Farmers
November 3, 2015   
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By Marek Sawicki, PhD, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development

The drought is over, but farmers are still feeling its aftermath and I want aid for them to be activated as soon as possible. To this end, I have taken measures to enable partial disbursement of direct payments still this year. We have decided to use this mechanism for the first time since Poland joined the EU. This is a way to help farmers cope with drought-related hardships. The advance payments are being disbursed between Oct. 16 and Nov. 30 by the Agriculture Restructuring and Modernization Agency (ARiMR). According to our estimates, the money will be paid to 82 percent of farmers who have applied for direct payments this year. No additional applications are required and the advance payments of 50 percent are awarded automatically. A total of around zl.2.8 billion has been earmarked for this purpose.

The Agriculture Restructuring and Modernization Agency recently completed the process of receiving applications from farmers seeking compensation for losses caused by the drought. A total of 166,500 applications were submitted for zl.649.4 million. The applications are being examined to set the final amount to be paid per hectare. The government has assigned zl.450 million for such payments and Poland has also managed to gain another zl.120 million from the European Commission. These funds will be used as assistance for dairy farmers. Work on the details of the assistance is nearing completion.

By the end of this year, we are planning to launch 16 measures as part of the 2014-2020 Rural Development Program. Poland is the EU leader in terms of how fast it has been implementing the second pillar of the Common Agricultural Policy. At the same time, some regions in the EU still have not had their Rural Development Programs approved by the European Commission. I encourage active utilization of these funds so that Polish rural areas can become fully modernized. The Common Agriculture Policy will probably remain in place after 2020, but it will not be as generous to Poland as it has been so far.

You can clearly see the impact these funds have had on Poland’s countryside as you travel around the country. The impact also shows up in statistics. According to Eurostat, the EU’s statistical office, in 2007-2014 Poland increased the value of its agricultural production 20 percent to 22.6 billion euros and in 2014, the country accounted for 5.8 percent of agricultural production in the EU, up from 5.5 percent in 2007. The figure puts Poland at number seven among the EU’s top agricultural producers.

For several years, we have been the largest producer of apples in the EU, the second largest in the whole of Europe and the third largest in the world. Poland is the EU’s largest and the world’s second largest producer of concentrated apple juice. It also produces the most blackcurrants in Europe and is the largest blackcurrant exporter in the world. We are the leading European producer of champignon mushrooms and, in fact, 35 percent of champignon imports worldwide come from Poland. We are also the EU’s number one producer of poultry meat, triticale and cabbage, and second when it comes to rye, oats and strawberries. Poland is the third largest EU producer of sugar beet, wheat, rapeseed, potatoes, cauliflower and onions. None of the above achievements would be possible without the hard work of farmers who have used EU support to modernize their farms and make them more productive and more narrowly specialized. In 2007-2014 alone, over 54,000 farmers used around zl.9.3 billion in funds available for farm modernization under the 2007-2013 Rural Development Program. A total of 51,000 farms were modernized, farmers bought almost 440,000 farm machines and appliances, and built and upgraded almost 3.6 million square meters of farm buildings.

Producer groups continue to spring up and this year 1,338 were registered. Most were established in 2007-2014. A total of 309 producer groups have been operating in the fruit and vegetable sector this year. Agricultural producer groups have 27,600 farmers as members while fruit and vegetable producer groups have 6,700 members.

All the ongoing changes have been boosting Poland’s agricultural exports. Food and agricultural products have for years accounted for a significant part of Poland’s foreign trade. Agriculture accounted for 12.7 percent of this last year, as compared to 9.4 percent in 2007. The food and agricultural sector is also one of few branches of the Polish economy to report a trade surplus. Had it not been for the drought this summer, agricultural exports would have totaled 25 billion euros this year.

These figures are just some of the data illustrating the changes that have taken place in rural Poland in recent years. I am convinced that the new rules pertaining to the direct payments system and the new, 2014-2020 Rural Development Program will allow Poland to further modernize its farms and agriculture. This without a doubt is a historical opportunity and we need to make the most of it. We know how to produce very good food that is constantly reaching more consumers on new markets. What we still need to learn is how to effectively sell what we produce. Our food is popular not only because it tastes good, but because it is of top quality.
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