The last apple season in Poland was a rough one and there’s a good chance the upcoming season will have its fair share of challenges. The weather has been acting up, with frost damaging the crops. And even if there is a crop to harvest, the labor issues have not been close to resolved.
The problems that Poland had to endure during the last apple season means the growers have to change up their strategy, says Damian Kozlowski, sales manager for Ewa-Bis: “Every season is different. The past season was extremely difficult for apple growers because of the overproduction, which in turn resulted in very low prices and problems with sales. The prices did not even cover the production costs. This coming season we want to focus on adding value to our apples and other products. Things like organic apples, our new brand Tymbark apples and environmentally friendly packaging. We have big hopes for the brand Tymbark, which is known and has a very strong image in Poland from its juices and purees.”
The season isn’t going to make it easy for the Polish growers though, as the weather is already playing a big part in damaging the crops. “Generally, this spring isn’t friendly for farming in Poland. February, March and April were very dry, we had almost three months without rain; followed up by some very serious frost in mid-April and now disastrous nights with frost from the beginning of May (which lasted a few nights). More cold nights are predicted around the 13th of May. As if that wasn’t enough, we also had a storm hail,” Kozlowski explains. “All of this will surely have a big impact for a coming season of apples, but we will know in 2-3 weeks to what extent. If we are talking about soft fruit like strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, we know from our growers that some of them have lost 40-50% of the upcoming crop.”
Kozlowski hopes that the apples of Ewa-Bis will reach new territories this season. “Our conventional apples are already sent all over Europe, North Africa and Asia. We would like to focus more on very far Asian and Middle East markets this season. However, the closest countries like Germany are also very interesting options. To accomplish these goals we need to offer apples of extremely good quality. This is why we encourage and advise our farmers to grow good quality products with proper MRL or even go as far to try and cultivate with organic quality.”
As to what kind of varieties the growers should cultivate for the future, Kozlowski is noticing a trend towards better quality apples: “Idared is still the most popular variety, but this is changing. A few years ago farmers started planting mono-colour varieties like red and golden delicious, redprince and of course stripe gala varieties, which are known all over the world. It’s a smart decision for now, but we have to observe the market very carefully and react quickly if customers start changing their preferences.”
One of the final challenges last season was the lack in workforce. In some orchards, apples were not being picked as there was no workforce from Ukraine. Kozlowski thinks this problem will continue the upcoming season: “The problem has been very visible since the beginning of the season and it will probably be difficult to find enough people for the work. We have observed people coming to Poland from India to work in the fresh industry, but this is not a big enough workforce still. That’s why farmers in the Western countries are trying mechanize the work as much as they can, to eliminate the need for all these workers.”