The Polish apple season is in full swing and it shouldn’t come as news to anyone that the season will be significantly worse than last year. This isn’t just the case for conventional apples, but the organic ones as well. According to one exporter a change in cultivation is necessary to deal with the changing climate.
“The volumes of the apples depend completely on the variety and region. Some have it worse than others,” says Anna Litwin, CEO of Polish exporter BlueHaskap. “The situation for organic apples is actually worse than for conventional apples. There are trees with just a few apples hanging from them. When we’re looking at the more expensive varieties like Gala, Golden and Champion, I’d say there will be 50 per cent less volume on the market this season. For Idared, one of Poland’s popular variety, will have 60 to even 70 per cent less volumes available.”
The laws of supply and demand would see the prices of these apples skyrocket, but according to Litwin there is a clear limit to this: “Italy also cultivates and exports apples and there is no way Polish apples can compete if our prices exceed those of the Italians. So our prices have to remain lower than theirs or importers will switch to the Italian apples. This is a problem, but to tackle it we have to improve the quality of our apples.” Litwin explains.
Although Litwin her main focus is on haskap berries, apples are still very close to home. “I grew up on an apple farm and have been in the apple business my entire life, bar a couple of years where I was studying. This experience has netted me a large amount of contacts and allows me to still export any amount of apples a client requests, even though our main focus is on the haskap berries. We have a lot of varieties available, like Gala, Golden, JonaPrince, Ligol, Champion and Jonagold. We have apples both for the industrial and fresh markets, which is something I feel more growers should take into account. If you don’t have a lot of land, getting some of your own fruit processed into juice, for example, it’s a great way to add some value to your produce.”
The future of Polish apple cultivation depends on taking action, says Litwin. “Poland needs to stand for high quality apples, cultivated in a good way. This doesn’t mean everything has to be grown organically, as this requires investments that are not feasible for small growers or growers who ‘don’t feel the organic idea for life’. However we should do whatever we can to respect the environment by using less chemicals during cultivation. Upgrading the quality is the only way for Polish growers to compete on the global market, as it will actually mean less work for the growers. Growing 500 tons of high quality apples will result in more profits than when growers cultivate e.g 2000 tons of questionable quality apples that might not even sell.”
The frosts in Poland during March and April show clearly that climate change is impacting the apple season. Litwin feels there is a solution, but isn’t sure that it is financially feasible for apple growers: “There are systems that can protect the apples from some damage, at least reducing the losses for apple farmers. This can be done by using nettings in the orchards. This is expensive though, and I’m uncertain whether this will net a positive result in the end. Another solution for apple growers is to go organic, although you’ll export less apples, the returns are significantly higher.” Litwin concludes.