The Warsaw Voice » Special Sections » Monthly - December 21, 2012
Polska…tastes good!
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Organically Speaking
The organic food market is one of the fastest growing segments of Poland’s food sector. Organic products have a 0.3-percent share in the whole food market, but this share has shown a steady growth of around 20 percent a year. The number of organic food producers is on the rise as is the area of land under organic crops. The value of Poland’s organic food market is estimated at zl.400 million, but has the potential to expand rapidly in the coming years.

Data by the IJHARS inspectorate for the quality of food products shows that in 2010 the area of land under organic crops expanded by more than 86,000 hectares in Poland and then grew further in 2011 to reach over 605,000 hectares, or 4 percent of all farmland in the country. This indicates that Polish farmers are increasingly interested in this segment of the food market. But despite the rapid growth, examples of other European countries show just how much more still needs to be done. In Austria, the area of land under organic crops accounts for 19.7 percent of all farmland. In Sweden, the figure is 14.1 percent, in Estonia 12.5 percent and in the Czech Republic, Poland’s neighbor to the south, 10.5 percent. It can be expected that Polish agriculture will also be heading in this direction.

When Poland joined the European Union in 2004, there were fears that it would be difficult for Polish farmers to compete with their counterparts in Western Europe because the latter used intensive crop growing and livestock breeding methods. But it soon turned out that what had been the source of worries—excessive fragmentation of farms, traditional farming methods, and moderate use of artificial fertilizers and pesticides—became an advantage of the Polish agricultural sector in competition for the modern consumer, for whom organic food is an attractive product.

Organic farmers are farmers who have voluntarily decided to make the effort to produce food using traditional methods. The use of artificial fertilizers and pesticides means taking the easy way and forcing future generations to deal with a degraded environment. Since production of organic food is more labor intensive than in the case of conventional food, its prices may be higher. But it is the real price of food produced with passion and commitment. And this price is worth paying.

In 2011, the Warsaw University of Life Sciences (SGGW) produced a report on factors determining demand for organic food in the context of changes on the organic food markets in Poland and other European countries. A survey conducted by the university’s researchers shows that 52.5 percent of consumers buy organic products, but only 11.1 percent do so regularly, 27.2 percent only occasionally, and 13.6 percent rarely. An overwhelming majority of those polled do not buy organic food at all or do so rarely. This means that the market has big potential for expansion. The research indicates that eggs are the organic product most popular with consumers. They is followed by fruit and vegetables, bread and cereal products, dairy products and meat.

The survey also looked at the main reasons behind people’s decisions to buy organic food. These include being health conscious, looking for produce free from genetic modifications, and buying organic food because of its superior taste. Much less important for the consumers was care for the environment and animal well-being. An important thing for consumers is that, by buying organic food, they aim to support Polish farmers and that organic food is produced by traditional methods and does not contain food additives. Most often consumers buy organic food in large stores, less often at markets or in specialist stores, like bakeries and meat stores, which sell only one kind of products.

It is beyond doubt that the organic food market in Poland is promising and has big potential for development. However, organic food needs to be promoted by providing consumers with reliable information about it. A nationwide advertising campaign under the motto of Organic Food as a Guarantee of Good Taste was launched in October 2012. The campaign is being conducted by the Agriculture Ministry and is designed to promote the consumption of certified organic food. The campaign is being carried out in the press and on the internet, including advertisements, videos showing Polish organic farms, a fanpage and an official blog of the campaign. As of July 1, 2012, organic food packaging must feature the EU logo.