Polish agriculture and the food industry have benefited hugely from the country joining the European Union 10 years ago.
Poland’s food industry, which has been almost fully privatized, has changed completely over the last 25 years, a period that saw the emergence of a free market economy in the country, followed by adjustment to EU standards. There has also been a radical change in terms of the products offered: the range is now very wide and the quality is attractive to consumers. However, a key characteristic in the development of the sector is not a rise in the volume of processed agricultural products, but a higher degree of processing and more value added. So-called secondary food processing has developed at the expense of traditional sectors.
Structural changes accelerated the modernization of the Polish food industry. Investment projects worth billions of euros, in which foreign capital played a big part, brought about a thorough modernization of food processing and packing methods.
The most progress in the Polish food industry was seen in the run-up to Poland joining the European Union in 2004. The adjustment process, in terms of technology and organization, took several years, cost a lot of money and effort, but ended in success. Financial support from the EU helped Polish businesses in their efforts to modernize and to be able to compete on the international market.
The modernization of food processing was previously financed under the Rural Development Plan for 2004-2006 and the Sectoral Operational Program entitled “restructuring and Modernization of the Food Sector and Rural Development for 2004-2006.” At present, the funding mechanism is the Rural Development Program for 2007-2013, the biggest ever such program, with a budget of around zl.70 billion. It is the most important source of funding for projects designed to improve the competitiveness of farms and processing plants, and support job creation in rural areas. The money available under this program has made it possible for hundreds of food processing companies to modernize.
Without support from this program, it would have been hard for Polish farmers to produce food of very high quality. They have been helped by an initiative called “Farmers’ Participation in Food Quality Systems.” Food processing businesses have received more than zl.1.9 billion, which has enabled them to invest in the modernization and expansion of their plants.
Investment in the expansion and modernization of food processing businesses is still significant. In 2011, investment by the sector came to zl.7.6 billion, zl.500 million shy of the record set in 2008. Investment in fixed assets exceeded zl.6.7 billion in 2012 and totaled around zl.6 billion in 2013. Companies processing animal products have invested the most in recent years. In the dairy, meat, fruit and vegetable processing sectors, Poland is a global leader in terms of technology.
Thanks to EU money, a significant part of the Polish food industry is among the most modern in Europe. The food industry is one of the most important sectors of the Polish economy. There are few other Polish industries which have managed to raise production levels and improve financial results to the same extent.
Poland is the sixth biggest food producer in the European Union, accounting for around 7.4 percent of its overall production volume. Exports are key, with around 30 percent of all food produced in Poland sold abroad. A majority of Polish producers have quality certificates, thanks to which Polish food products have gained recognition across the world.
In 2013, Poland exported food worth 19.9 billion euros, the highest figure ever. The food trade balance was positive at 5.4 billion euros. Food exports grew 11.5 percent compared with the previous year, outpacing the 6.5-percent growth in overall Polish exports. Agri-food exports also played a bigger role in overall exports, rising from 12.5 percent in 2010 to 13.1 percent in 2013 in terms of value. The role of agricultural raw materials in exports is on the decrease, while the role of highly processed products is growing. Polish food products are of a comparable quality to those produced in Western countries and are also tasty, healthy and often produced from more natural raw materials.
Source: The Warsaw Voice