It’s a known fact that Poland will harvest a record amount of apples this season. Due to the Russian embargo and China not taking the amount of apples they said they would
, the country might have a problem with the surplus of apples. The biggest issue of them all seems to be the lack of labour force to actually pick all the fruit from the trees.
Mohamed Marawan of Sarafruit stated before that their overhead of apples could always be sold to the processing factories in the neighbourhood. This isn’t an option for the small farms though, who can only store about a 1000 tonnes of apples, but have over 1500 tonnes of apples in their orchard.
“Poland was supposed to get a lot of workers from Ukraine to deal with the excessive amount of apples we’re growing this year. They haven't shown up yet, however and even with the added workers, we simply don’t have the manpower to pick all these apples,” Marawan continues: “For Sarafruit we’re currently looking at options to buy a machine that helps with picking, as we’ve seen in the United States and Italy. The issue is we’re not used to working with these kind of picking robots in Poland, so it will take some time to use them as effective as possible. I honestly don’t believe any of the apples will go to waste, we’ll just be picking them for a longer period. It also helps that we have multiple varieties that can be picked at different times. For example we’re picking the Gala Must variety right now, and we’ll be able to pick the Gala Royal in about two weeks. After that it’s the Golden varieties’ turn to be picked. The good thing is that smaller apples will get more time to grow, leading to bigger apples with good quality in the end.”
The huge amount of Polish apples were supposed to go to China, but the Chinese are trying to get out of their deal with Poland by stating their certifications aren’t valid. It means Polish exporters are looking for different markets to sell these apples to. And of course with the quantity of apples that are being produced, the prices are plummeting: “We’re still making money, but of course it’s a lot less per kg than we got last year. Especially with the emergency labour required to pick these apples. As a country our main target for these apples is Egypt, but Malaysia is also a great market for us. They require more and more apples and are actually looking for a agreement to get great prices. Spain might also take a lot of the Gala Must and Golden varieties off our hands.” Marawan states.
When asked if next season will bring changes for Polish apple growers, Marawan believes technology will become more important to them than ever: “We’re even looking at using our irrigation system to spray the orchards, instead of doing it manually. It’ll save a lot of time and will help us move labour towards picking apples, since our irrigation system flows over the orchard. Depending on if we buy a picking machine this season, we might expand next season and get more machines to help the growers out.”
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