Polish Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development – Krzysztof Jurgiel tells us about actions which has been taken to support Polish products abroad.
Polish food products have managed to conquer the palate of many foreign consumers. What are the reasons behind the success of our food?
We know how to produce food. In this respect, we not only have a rich culinary heritage which we draw on, but also one of the most state-of-the-art processing plants. We focus on family farms and sustainable development. This results in the extremely high quality and excellent flavour of our products. However, we must remember that our agriculture has enormous potential. We produce more than is necessary for our domestic consumption, and for this reason, we are on the constant lookout for new, potential markets. Over the past two years, we have gained access for our agri-food products to an additional 30 potential markets. According to preliminary reports, we have exported more than EUR 27.3 billion worth of agri-food products. At the same time, we have maintained a positive exchange balance exceeding EUR 8 billion.
With each passing year, the volume of Polish food exports is growing, but are there still markets that are less accessible for our products? What can you do to turn this around? What supportive activities are carried out by the Ministry of Agriculture?
We are primarily responsible for setting out the conditions of access to specific markets. This is a tremendous job performed by veterinary and phytosanitary services. We also support informational and promotional activities that are carried out by industry organisations within the framework of, for example, promotion funds. We participate in many of the most important food industry related trade fairs in the world. We are aware that gaining new potential markets is sometimes long and arduous. However, we continue to consistently implement our goals. As I have already mentioned, the result of our efforts in the last two years has been 30 new markets where Polish exporters can sell our products. I am convinced that consistency, consolidation and targeting of specific activities towards specific markets will bring about positive results.
Many of our companies strive to enter the Chinese market, some have already been successful. Establishing a presence on such a remote and culturally different market requires support from the highest level. Can you give examples of such activities?
China is a huge market that everyone is striving for. We are not alone in this and we are well aware of the high level of competition. However, I believe that our chances are good. Our food is perceived as very high quality food on that market. However, the scale of the market requires strong consolidation, in order to offer large batches of a uniform product. This is a challenge for our companies that wish to sell in China. The specificity of this market also requires the presence of the most important people in the state. Both The President of the Republic of Poland, Andrzej Duda and former Prime Minister Beata Szydło, and the then Deputy Prime Minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, paid visits to China. These bilateral contacts, which were also reciprocated with visits to Poland, serve to solve problems and open up the road to further progress in trade negotiations and market access.
Secretary of State Zbigniew Babalski, at the end of August last year participated in the 12th China-CEEC Agro-trade Forum, which took place in Slovenia. The meeting was also attended by representatives of the ministries of agriculture from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Montenegro, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Macedonia, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Hungary and China. During the session, a Joint Declaration was adopted, in which the countries undertook to further strengthen cooperation, support business contacts, and to facilitate procedures in trade exchange. The Chinese Minister of Agriculture, Han Changfu, took part in the forum and paid the first official visit to Poland. We discussed cooperation prospects in both bilateral and multilateral formats. We also discussed the access of Polish agri-food products to the Chinese market. The head of the National Veterinary Research Institute, Krzysztof Niemczuk, and the head of the Veterinary Institute in Lanzhou, Hong Yin, both signed a memorandum on cooperation between the two institutes. This bodes well for the future.
What barriers in the development of food exports are the most difficult to remove?
Barriers related to protectionism are the most difficult. Protectionism and the so-called black PR hamper the conditions of competition and are unlawful forms of restricting access to a market. However, they are difficult to combat. We have already had to deal with such activities on the Czech market. There was also an attempt to discredit Polish sausage in Germany. We strongly oppose all of these types of activities, to which we react both directly and on the EU forum.
Our food meets the highest sanitary and veterinary standards; however, there are countries where our food is not accepted. This can be frustrating for Polish producers. What can be done to solve this problem?
Within the European Union, it is easier for us to respond. We all have to meet certain conditions and we meet them. As I have already mentioned, we react immediately, as demonstrated in the cases I have mentioned. There are EU mechanisms, services and defined actions that can be taken. It is more difficult on non-EU markets. We undertake certain courses of action, such as in matters related to ASF for the recognition of regionalisation. However, non-EU countries have their own interests and do not necessarily want to agree on such solutions.
The Ministry of Agriculture strongly supports the promotion of Polish food abroad. Please tell us about your recent activities and plans for the near future?
We undertake determined actions aimed at expanding the access of Polish agri-food products to the markets of non-EU countries, with particular emphasis on Asian markets which are enjoying the growing interest of Polish entrepreneurs. Our actions mainly include bilateral cooperation regarding the arrangements for access of Polish agri-food products to such markets, as well as informational and promotional activities. The most prospective markets for Polish exports have been defined in the priorities of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development for the opening of new markets in 2017 and subsequent years. These are: United Arab Emirates, India, Japan, China and Taiwan, Canada, Algeria, South Africa, the United States, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Vietnam, Iran, Belarus and Kazakhstan.