Labor shortages and higher prices could be detrimental to the Polish apple season. Although this sounds like a dire situation, one apple exporter from Poland feels the season will not be as bad as growers seem to think. According to him, as long as the prices can be kept at a reasonable level Poland can still be a player in the European market this year.
Although the volumes of Polish apples will be down significantly this season, Mohamed Marawan, CEO of Sarafruit, is confident they’ll still ship a large amount: “Sarafruit expects to ship about 20,000 tons of apples this year. Egypt has always been one of our main markets to export the apples to. However next to the lower volumes this year, the Italian apples also won a quality award recently with the Gala and Golden apples. This means the Polish apples can’t be competitive if the prices are higher than the Italian ones. Prices have to be reasonable this season. Growers and exporters have noticed the lower volumes in Poland and think they have to react by raising the prices. However these people must not forget about the advantage of Polish apples; a competitive price. If our prices reach Italian or Spanish levels, the Polish apples will have no chance of having a good position on the export market, as our quality is simply lower than it is in Italy.”
The quality and quantity of the Polish apples will be a real problem, says Marawan. “The frost and bad weather really messed up the season, it will be quite challenging, and this is simply the reality we have to deal with. Mother Nature will not step aside for anyone. We’re currently waiting for the forecast of the apple harvest, in some places a large amount is expected, while other places will produce a lower amount due to last season’s bumper crop and the weather issues I just mentioned. However, Poland will still produce 3.5 million tons of apples, which isn’t a bad amount at all. The farmers just have to realize this.”
One of the other major challenges of the Polish apples season could be the lack of seasonal workers. Last year the usual amount of Ukrainian fruit pickers never showed up, finding better salaries elsewhere. According to Marawan the end of this problem isn’t in sight just yet. “This situation is pretty normal, as anyone with a job will always search for a better income and stability. Of course some workers are still showing up, but it’s nowhere near enough. Growers I cooperate with always complain about the situation, but what can we really do?” Marawan concludes.