The situation on the Polish apple market is acceptable, according to the latest IERiGŻ report “Fruit and vegetable market. Status and Prospects". The apple harvest promises to be comparable to last year's, and prices should start to rise; however, there may be temporary problems ahead, according to the president of the Polish Fruit Growers Association, MP Mirosław Maliszewski, and Dr. Paweł Kraciński, of IERiGŻ.
FAO data shows that Poland is one of the largest apple producers in the EU and the third largest producer in the world, only behind China and the US. Polish apples are appreciated for their low price and quality.
Despite all the challenges related to COVID-19, the situation on the apple market is allowing the sector to remain optimistic. This is also a consequence of the increase in the consumption of apples, which are more and more often chosen by Poles.
The production of apples undoubtedly depends on the weather conditions. This year's mild winter did not cause any major problems for the growers. Some of them, however, suffered losses due to spring frosts and the lack of rainfall during this period. On the other hand, autumn has brought considerable rainfall for the last few years. This year's harvest is basically over. In an interview with agrofakt.pl, Mirosław Maliszewski, president of the Board of the Polish Fruit Growers Association, says that "some growers only have the fruits of the latest varieties left on their trees; for example, the Idared. Some are also still harvesting fruit for the processing industry.
The president of the Polish Fruit Growers Association also draws attention to the apple stocks. "The stocks of apples are high, as we have several months of trading ahead of us; however, the inventory levels are much smaller than in previous years, especially much lower than in record-breaking harvest years, such as 2018. This is the result of spring frosts, which significantly reduced the yield, as well as other weather phenomena, especially dry weather and hail.
The apple market and the pandemic
The smaller stocks of dessert apples have contributed to a reduction in apple exports to foreign markets. Dr. Paweł Kraciński says that "last season, we already exported fewer apples. According to preliminary data of the Ministry of Finance, the export volume amounted to approximately 665 thousand tons. A lower figure than in previous seasons; however, the lower exports were not due to the effects of the pandemic, but due to the smaller stocks of dessert apples. Less fruit could be sold because, as it turned out in spring, the domestic production was overestimated.
The apple market has been affected by the pandemic. With the advent of the coronavirus, the consumption of Polish apples gradually increased. Consumers started to stockpile, but also to look for healthy and vitamin-rich products. In other words, the coronavirus has increased the demand for apples, and this has had an impact on the price. This is also emphasized by Dr. Paweł Kraciński from IERiGŻ, who says that "the increase in the demand for apples after the outbreak of the pandemic led to a significant increase in apple prices in the summer months."
Challenges in the apple market
However, in addition to the increase in apple prices , which to some extent has also been noticed by fruit growers, the pandemic is also having negative effects. One such effect, for instance, is employee-related difficulties, but also higher logistics costs.
Mirosław Maliszewski also talks about the challenges related to the labor market. "If we maintain access to cheap labor and do not close the borders to fruit transport, the second wave of the epidemic should not be a problem for us."
Moreover, the president of the Association of Fruit Growers of the Republic of Poland puts emphasis on the increased consumption of apples. "A very positive effect is the increase in consumption. Thus, if the conditions guaranteeing timely preparation of the fruit's sale and transport are met, the pandemic will certainly not prevent us from obtaining attractive prices."