Polish food sector has undergone a significant transformation over the last 20 years. It was one of the industries that quickly reborn after the beginning of the crisis within political transformation, becoming an important stimulus of economic growth. Thanks to constant technical, technological and organizational development of this sector, Poland climbed to the top of modern and innovative European food producers. The result of which is, among others, a remarkable export success of Polish companies.(1)
Poland’s accession to the EU, has become a significant factor in development acceleration. This required a number of both pre- and post-accession grants and subsidies, enabling adaptation of production facilities to the European standards. The opening of European markets tripled exports of food products (from EUR 5 billion in 1994 to EUR 17.5 billion in 2012). Indicator of export orientation of production in the food sector, which is a correlation of proceeds from export sales to the value of the sector, increased to almost 20%.(2) Such a rapidly growing market and export growth determine the fast development of food processing and animal husbandry. From January to May 2015, value of Polish exports of agri¬food amounted to EUR 9.3 billion, in comparison to the same period of 2014, there was an increase of approx. EUR 480 million - 5.5%. In September 2015, this value has already exceeded EUR 17.3 billion and was 8% higher than a year before.(3)
The balance of Polish membership in the EU agri-food sector is definitely positive, despite a number of adverse effects for agricultural producers, such as increasing the barriers to entry, limiting the production and export through production quotas or increasing the cost of administering the management and control systems on agricultural markets .(4)
According to the „Foreign agri-food trade” report prepared by the Agricultural Market Agency, the EU countries imported from Poland agri-food products worth EUR 14.2 billion, what gives an increase of exports to these countries by 11% , compared to the same period of the previous year. Considering Germany, there were exported the food products worth EUR 3.8 billion. The Great Britain took second place among the EU countries with the 8% share of the Polish market, where agri-food products worth EUR 1.4 billion were exported, an increase of 15% compared with the previous year. Czech Republic, France and Italy remain important recipients of agri-food products from Poland.
The organic food market has great potential for development in Poland. There is a growing awareness of what is healthy, and the era in which food is to be only tasty and cheap is slowly falling into oblivion. Competition has led to a state where producers instead of hiding the ingredients of their products boasting with them. In recent years, one could have observed a significant and steady increase in the number of health shops and organic food in every major city of Poland. The value of Polish organic food market exceeds PLN 700 million, and the dynamics of its development is estimated at 10-20% per year - for comparison, in September 2014, this market was estimated at PLN 600-650 million. Poland posseses rich agricultural lands not ecologically contaminated, which is suitable for organic and ecologic farming. Currently, there are more than 600 thousands ha of land in Poland occupied by organic farming. About 800 stores, selling the healthy food, are operating on the market. The share of the organic food in these stores usually exceeds 50% and often reach almost 100%. These food markets operate mainly in large cities, but individual shops are beginning to perform well in the agglomeration with less than 100 000 inhabitants.
The popularity of organic food among Polish citizens amounts 30 % what indicates that this market has a great potential to growth. Organic food sale is more popular abroad than in Poland. Germany could be an example, where organic food holds 50% of market share. As one can see, good Polish basis in conjunction with product export is a recipe for success in this area. In 2012, Poland took 3 place in the European Union in terms of the number of organic farms. The potential of Polish processing industry is immense. Modern infrastructure, technology and highly-qualified staff are used to manufacture healthy products with sophisticated taste and dietary value, which is surely appreciated by consumers. The fragmented structure and low-use of chemicals in Polish agriculture allows Poland to produce high quality, organic and natural food that are so desired in Europe. The overall number of organic food processing plants in Europe is as follows: in the Netherlands - 1035, in the UK - 2052, in Italy - 5873, in France - 8957, and in Germany - 9183. In 2013, Poland had 407 organic food processing plants, which compared to 2003 and the number of 22 processing plants, constitutes a major breakthrough. 2015 showed a constant increase in this number, with 484 processing plants in Poland at the end of the year.
It should be added that investment in the organic food market contributes to the improvement of public health and the quality of human lives. It is a safe, albeit, not easy market, because it mainly follows the passing fads for food products.
The Polish participation in the European and global agricultural market largely determines medium and large farms. Their importance in Poland is gradually increasing. According to the Agricultural Census conducted in 2010, in comparison to the results of 2002, the number of the biggest farms 50 ha or more increased by 34%, while the number of farms in the group area of 20-50 hectares remained at a same level. For the last 12 years, Poland has ranked first in Europe and third in the world by the production of apples, and since the 2013/2014, the first in the world by the export. In the years 2005 - 2013 the harvest were ranged from 1.1 to 3.1 million tons. 2014 brought the record in the harvest - 3.8 million tons. Growing production potential of Polish orchards will, however, increase the yield, planned for 2020. The increase in fruit production is favored by: sufficient land and a large group of manufacturers with a high level of expertise and marketing knowledge, as well as their entrepreneurship and innovation. In recent years, the share of this crop in the whole fruit trees area of cultivation in the country has increased to 70%. The largest area of apple orchards is located in the so-called orchard centre of Mazovian Voivodship, namely in the area around Grójec, Warka, and Tarczyn. Apples are the flagship products of the Polish farming market.
Fields for grain production also cover huge acreage in Poland, consisting of 1.3 million farms, of which 115 thousand are over 20 ha. In 2008-2012, the average annual purchase of grain (including corn) constituted about 9 million tons. It is expected that as a result of farms specialization, the production and commerciality of cereals (including feed grain) will increase. Agricultural Market Agency supports farmers by providing subsidies for the seeds, used of either elite or certified category. In 2012, the area supported by subsidies amounted to 885 thousand ha and was almost 3 times bigger than in 2007.
Area of cereal crops in 2015 was estimated at approx. 7.2 million ha, consisting of approx. 2.4 million ha of wheat, approx. 1.0 million ha of rye and approx. 0.9 million ha of barley. In the structure of sown area, the share of winter cereals is approx. 60%, and spring cereals - approx. 40%. Compared to the last year, acreage of winter crops increased by approx. 4%. According to the Central Statistical Office, the total grain harvest in Poland in 2015 amounted to 28.0 million tons. National cereal production has been cut by 12% compared to 2014. However, this slight decline occurred for the reason of difficult weather conditions, prevailing throughout 2015. According to the Central Statistical Office, the total area of cereal crops in 2015 amounted to 7.5 million ha, about 0.3 million ha more than was initially expected, with area of cereals sown with corn mixture exceeding 6.7 million ha. The biggest crops are: wheat - 2.4 million ha, and triticale - 1.5 million ha. In the case of other cereal crop, the area was estimated to be: 0.8 million ha - barley and cereals, 0.7 million ha - rye and 0.5 million hectares - oats.(5)
Vegetable production is an important branch of national agriculture. The area dedicated to the cultivation of vegetables in Poland amounts to 170-180 thousand ha, and remains at the level of 4.5-4.8 million tons per year. Vegetables such as onions, cabbage and carrots, field cucumbers, beets, cauliflower and field tomatoes occupy the largest area in the country. In season 2014/15 the production of vegetable products amounted to 1,170 thousand tons, compared to 1,145 thousand tons in the previous season. There has been an increased production of almost all vegetable products, including frozen vegetables which dominate in the production of processed vegetables. The share of food processing in the management of market supply of field vegetables constituted 39%, compared to 38% in the season 2013/14 and approx. 20% at the beginning of the last decade.(6)
In the European Union, under the Common Agricultural Policy, activities involving the protection of names and places of origin are carried out. It is possible to record and reserve products’ names, recipes and historical places of their production. These are to guarantee high quality and unique nature of the products as well as legally protect the method of manufacturing them. This unique designations are awarded to products which are original and distinctive among the offered food. Poland is a country with a rich culinary heritage. In 2012, there were 1,036 products registered on the list of traditional products, that are made to unique recipes handed down from generation to generation which are deeply rooted in the traditions and culture of each region. Currently, this list comprising of 1519 products. One can find there dairy products, such as meat, fish, vegetables, fruits, bakery products and confectionery, honey, alcohol, beverages, oils and fats and even ready meals.(7)
According to the data of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, in 2015 Poland recorded a positive balance in agri-food products trade. In 2015, it reached the level of plus EUR 7.71 billion and increased by 14.3% cin comparison with 2014 (EUR 6.74 billion). The balance in trade with EU countries amounted to EUR 8.51 billion, and compared to 2014, there was an increase of 23%, at that time the value was at the level of plus EUR 6.92 billion. Poland achieved the highest positive balance in trade with Germany (EUR 1.87 billion), the UK ( EUR 1.54 billion), the Czech Republic (EUR 1.13 billion), France (EUR 969 million) and Italy (EUR 719 million) - these are countries where the quality of the food is very important what speaks well of Poland.
Industrial and mass production of food and its widespread availability caused huge losses to taste values of these products. For several years, there has been a noticeable increase of interest in regional products. It should be noted that these products are not subjected to typical price fluctuation. It is a premium quality product, prepared in a special way, by definition expensive and addressed to people with higher incomes. Its added value lies in the historical heritage of the region’s cuisine. The most important fact is that it also offers a unique flavor that cannot be found in food from industrial mass production.
1. Food sector in Poland - The Polish Information and Foreign Investment Agency (PAIiIZ)
2. “Polish agri-food sector under conditions of Common Agricultural Policy”.
4. „Polish agri-food sector and rural areas after Poland’s 10-year EU membership– review of the most important changes”.
5. Agricultural Market Agency - „Cereal Production in Poland”