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Polish Apple Harvests Hit Record Low, Leading to Exports and Profitability Challenges

FOOD & AGRICULTUREPolish Apple Harvests Hit Record Low, Leading to Exports and Profitability Challenges

Apple harvests in 2023 turned out to be historically low, not only in Poland but throughout the EU. As a result, growers were able to fetch relatively high prices and recuperate their condition, which had been affected by rising production costs. The industry still faces a series of challenges associated with rising labour, fuel and pesticide costs. The answer is expected to be an increase in exports to foreign markets. Orchard organizations are striving to strengthen their position among existing customers, including in Egypt, while also striving to acquire new clients.

According to data from the Central Statistical Office of Poland (GUS), in 2023 apple orchard yields exceeded 3.8 million tons, nearly 9% less compared to the previous year. There were also declines in other tree fruits, including pears, plums, cherries and sweet cherries – GUS estimates total production at just under 4.4 million tons, also nearly 9% less than in 2022.

“It’s a record year of low yields in Poland and many EU countries, which effectively limited the supply of fruit in the market and improved the situation. Many fruit-growing farms producing apples are in fairly good condition and somewhat satisfied with the market. The coming months, i.e., sales of fruit from cold storage, will show whether this season will end successful for us, or declines will occur,” says Mirosław Maliszewski, president of Union of Polish Fruit Growers Union.

In the first part of the season, following the end of trade with Russia and sporadic exchange with Belarus, the largest export market – Egypt – regarded apples as a luxury product and imposed a 10% duty on them. This primarily affected apples originating from the EU, including Poland.

According to Mirosław Maliszewski, “Egypt will be a significant consumer of Polish apples in the coming months. Our export to the Indian market is increasing quite strongly, I think that both this season and in the coming ones we will increase sales to this market. We are of course developing sales to EU markets, especially to the German market. We also see export opportunities to South America.”

In November 2023, 10 thousand tons of Polish apples went to Egypt, which is over a third of all exports, to India 4.6 thousand tons, and to Saudi Arabia, Kazakhstan, and Jordan around 2 thousand tons each.

However, a series of challenges are pointed out by growers, mainly with the profitability of operations, which is comprised on the one hand of prices obtained from the sale of fruit to retail chains, large processing plants, and foreign wholesalers, and on the other hand, the costs of running a business.

Simultaneously, inflation, which rose rapidly until February, then began to slow down but is still at a level twice as high as fluctuations allowed from the inflation target, caused wage pressure and an increase in the prices of goods necessary for production on the one hand, and consumers’ reluctance to spend money on the other.

In conclusion, the president of the Polish Fruit Growers Association points out, “We would like to translate direct cost increases directly into higher prices obtained for our products, but very often these are two separate markets. We often don’t earn on fruits for reasons not of our own, for example, retail chains don’t want to pay us more – we have no influence on that despite our rising costs.”

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