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Polska... tastes good!
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Appetite for Polish Apples Grows
   
Instead of collapsing after Russia slapped an embargo last year on food imports from the EU, Polish apple growers made up for the loss of their biggest market with increased exports to other countries and growing domestic sales.

The Russian embargo, imposed last August, has been painful for Polish agriculture but has also shown the sector’s resilience in adjusting to new circumstances. “Despite a tough year, our produce and food exports reached close to 22 billion euros, with a positive balance of trade of about 6.7 billion euros,” Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Marek Sawicki told a press conference recently. “The embargo continues but a determined effort on Poland’s part and support from other countries means that the European Commission will continue its aid for fruit and vegetable growers,” Sawicki said, adding that most of this aid would go to Poland.

Apple growers have also received substantial support from Polish consumers, who began eating larger amounts of the fruit following the Russian embargo. A major role in this was played by the Puls Biznesu business daily’s campaign entitled “Stand up to Putin: Eat Apples, Drink Cider,” launched last year. It encouraged people to buy apples and support Polish fruit farmers. Carrying the hashtag #jedzjablka (eat apples), journalist Grzegorz Nawacki’s idea was well received by internet users and the Polish media, and drew the attention of the international press as well. In the first 48 hours after the article was posted on the pb.pl website, information about #jedzjablka reached 4.5 million people online via social networking sites and morphed into a well-organized public campaign. Companies also bought Polish apples for their staff. According to Puls Biznesu, Poles ended up with almost 160,000 kg of apples on their desks at work over 12 months. Apple consumption in Poland grew by 20 percent last year. Cider makers also gained, with the cider market growing more than threefold year on year.

Poland is a European giant in terms of fruit production and exports. Apples, valued for their flavor and nutritional value, enjoy a special position. They are a good source of vitamin C, contain a lot of potassium, iron, magnesium, copper, silicon, zinc, beta-carotene, quercetin and lots of pectin. Apples slow down the progress of circulatory diseases and cancer and also seal blood vessels. Apples increase resistance to infections, so they should be eaten by people prone to colds. They are effective at removing toxins and cholesterol from the body. They also have a positive effect on the nails, skin and hair. In Poland, a third of domestically grown fruit that consumers eat are apples.

Polish customers have many apple varieties to choose from. Two groups of this fruit enjoy a special position thanks to European protection. The most famous apples are those grown in Łącko Valley in southern Poland. Apples from Łącko have been registered by the European Commission as a Protected Geographical Indication. The apples have to be produced in Małopolska province in the following districts: Łącko, Podegrodzie, Stary Sącz and Łukowica. The area has a mild climate in which apples do well.

Apples from Grójec have also received Protected Geographical Indication status from the European Commission. These apples have a more intense color than average, more blush and high acidity. This is due to the unique microclimate in the Grójec region in Mazovia province, which has high temperatures in the period before the apple harvest. The special character of Grójec apples is also influenced by the region’s soils, which are ideal for growing apples.

Apples are a Polish agricultural export hit. As part of the Poland Tastes Good campaign promoting Polish food, members of the European Parliament were given the chance to sample Polish apples during several tastings organized by Poland’s Agriculture Ministry. Visitors to the Polish pavilion at the Expo 2015 world exhibition in Milan, Italy, can also try them.

A.R.