When life gives you apples…
The humble apple has recently become a poster boy of the Polish export market and has shown how Polish industry can adapt and succeed when obstacles arise.
For years Polish apples were sent wholesale to countries in the east, particularly Russia. Following the imposition of EU sanctions on that country in 2014, ministry of agriculture officials looked good and hard at expanding its agricultural exports, travelling the width and breadth of much of the civilised world – to countries such as Morocco, Kazakhstan and Malaysia – trying to find new export markets for the Polish jabłko, as well as much more. Poland is set to become the EU leader in apple production in the near future, especially if current growth is sustained. “No other EU country has seen such a rapid growth in apple production as Poland over the last decade,” according to Mariusz Dziwulski, an economist at BGŻ BNP Paribas, in an interview with daily business newspaper Rzeczpospolita.
In 2015 Poland accounted for nearly one in every three apples harvested in the EU, head and shoulders above the competition. Agriculture experts also expect this year’s harvest to be a bumper one due to positive weather conditions. Poland’s Central Statistical Office (GUS) forecasts 3.5 million tons of apples to be picked this year, an increase of 10 percent over the previous year, and as much as 70 percent more than 2005 – a year after Poland joined the EU.
But the abundant harvests have caused a headache for farmers who struggle to sell all of their produce. “If we were to drop the embargo with Russia […] which imported as many as one million tons of apples from Poland, we would not have any problems with what to do with this fruit,” said Mirosław Maliszewski, president of the Association of Polish Fruit Growers. Maliszewski was among the first to understand the potential losses of the EU sanctions on Polish fruit exporters. In August 2014, his Association wrote a letter to then-agricultural minister warning that the embargo could result in companies in the sector folding, leading to thousands of job losses in the industry. Two years later, Polish apple farmers are looking for new and exotic destinations for their apples.
‘In 2015 Poland accounted for one in every three apples harvested in the EU.’
What Poles lack in options, they make up for in sheer determination. If apples cannot be exported, there must be something to do with this fruit, surely? The answer came in the shape of a drink which has been a favourite tipple of the British for centuries, but has only recently found a foothold in Poland – cider. The market for cider is growing by 500 percent a year, according to Ambra, a leading Polish producer and distributor of alcohol. Back in 2012, London-based market researcher Euromonitor deemed Poland’s market for cider to be “negligible”, but by 2015, Poland had become a leader in the CEE region. Euromonitor now says that manufacturers “have been very active in terms of capitalising on the growing consumer interest and establishing recently launched products.” Although this market is not earth shattering, and will not single-handedly save Polish apple exports, it is testament to a very Polish attitude. When life gives you apples…
Thinking outside of the orchard: By turning apples into cider, Polish business people have shown that where there is a will there is a way.