With conventional Polish apples swamping Europe, it might be time for Poland to go about it in a different way. Rather than following the trend, Anna Gabler of Agro Queens decided to create a new one; organic apples not only give farmers and exporters more profits, but also contributes to our health, she says.
Although everyone is focusing on the major volume of conventional apples from Poland, one shouldn’t forget the organic market, which is growing. Anna Gabler, CEO of Agro Queens has been working to get a foothold in the European market, and the past season has treated her company well: “The past season of Polish apples was difficult, but not too bad in the end. Prices were high and Europe needed apples, so demand was high as well.”
With a lot of farmers in Poland turning to cultivating apples, Gabler was looking for the next step. Once she found out about the quality of organic apples, she was sold: “Poland is the biggest producer of conventional apples in Europe, so why not to be also a leader in organic apples? I remember when I first laid eyes on organic Italian apples. I couldn’t believe it was possible to produce such a high quality apple!” And so she decided to try to get Polish organic apples on the market, but this change came with a lot of challenges: “It was not easy, we had no support from anyone, nor did we have the knowledge. It was only thanks to the stubbornness of our farmers and their efforts, that we can compete with our Western neighbours today.”
Where the price of conventional apples plummeted, the prices for organic apples are about two to three times higher. This might invite growers and traders wanting to make a quick buck, but Gabler tries to avoid these kind of people: “Some of the Polish growers want to become rich in one day, same as greedy traders. That’s why I try to avoid them and we only invite responsible people for cooperation. We look for people who want to grow with us. I started to find good people who want to build the business together.”
This has resulted in the birth of a new brand, that Gabler is proud to present: “Today we are presenting the brand BIO QUEEN – behind the brand are twelve farmers, with whom we can supply 4000 tonnes of apples in total. The goal for next year is to double that amount, thanks to more participants. Half of our produce will be used for industry and the other half for consumption. BIO QUEENS is supplying knowledge and we control the farms for a year. We concentrate on a sales, marketing and distribution. We pack the fruit in our certified packhouse.”
Now that Agro Queens has gone past its start up stage, Gabler is looking to meet certain goals in the short term: “We currently do organic fruits for processors, like puree, peeling and drying. Of course we also have organic apples for consumption in trays of four and six, bags, loose apples or layers. We’d like to increase our volume in Poland as there is still a lot of work to do in our own country. We’re in the process of creating organic packaging, which we’ll present soon.”
Agro Queens is the first exporter of the branded organic apples Bio Queen, which is on the way to the European market. The company itself wants to be the first to export high class organic apples to Sweden and is even looking to enter the market with organic pears. It’s not like they don’t have any competition though, Gabler acknowledges: “Italy is the leader in terms of production, marketing and knowledge. Their organization is on point, they have a stable price level and I think they have perfect marketing. This is what we have to follow and teach ourselves. In Poland we need to have more respect for each other, talk amongst ourselves to grow our skills, instead of constantly wanting to compete.”