Low harvest and quality limit export

Polish apple cultivation in movement: other varieties and new export markets

There are various figures circulating about the Polish apple production this season. What the various estimates have in common is the expected decrease in yield. Towards the end of the season the import is therefore expected to increase. Due to the loss of the Russian market in 2014 exporters have been looking for new markets. These have been found, but cannot yet take on the Russian volumes. This is according to a report by the USDA.

FAS Warsaw sets the production at 2.8 million tonnes, a decrease of 20% compared to the previous year. The official figures of the Polish government speak of a production between 2.3 and 2.6 million tonnes again 3.6 million tonnes in the season 2016/2017. The Polish sector itself sets the figures higher at 3 million tonnes this season compared to 4.05 million tonnes the year before. The differences in the estimates have been around for a number of years. Poland is the largest apple producer in the EU and worth around 30% of the total production.

A number of old orchards have been taken out of production, which makes the area figure lower. There are also grower, who replant parts of orchards with more lucrative crops after a few years of disappointing prices.

The season started positively with a mild winter and a good spring. The frost in April, however, also froze the positive expectations. The damage to the blossoms had a large negative impact on the harvest this year. The cold decimated the harvest for all varieties, although there are differences at a local scale. Some regions report full losses. Growers of the variety Idared report the largest losses. The varieties Champion, Gala and Gloster are doing better. The frost also has a negative impact on the quality this year. As some growers stopped the use of crop protection agents for financial reasons, this could have consequences into next season. After the frost, hail storms followed later in the season which damaged the harvest.

Although this means that there are less apples available for the fresh market this season, the growth of this segment continues. Between 2016 and 2017 new orchards have been planted with apple varieties such as Idared, Golden, Gala and Champion. There is also a local variety Antanowka that is used both for the fresh market and the industry. Due to the Russian boycott the Polish growers were forced to invest in the diversification of the varieties. According to various sources the new plantation consists mainly of Red Delicious, Gala and Prince. The branch union advised planting these varieties, watching the changes in the market and the local growing conditions, among other things.

Although the apple production has tripled in the last ten years, the domestic consumption of apples decreased by 24%. In 2016 the domestic consumption was at 13 kilo per head of the population. In the FAS Warsaw estimated the industry is taking 1.4 million tonnes of apples this year, a decrease compared to the 1.8 million tonnes a year before. Around half of the harvest is processed by the industry, particularly into concentrate. The Eastern European country is the front runner in the EU when it comes to the export of apple juice concentrate.

The lower harvest and the worse quality of the apples also have their effect on the export figures. In the estimates people speak of an export of 800,000 tonnes, which is 300,000 tonnes less than in the previous season. In the first quarter of the season 2017/2018 40% less was exported than in the same period a year previously. The decrease was primarily in the export to Belarus and Egypt. Before the Russian boycott in 2014 this country was the largest buyer outside of the EU, worth around half the export. After the border was closed the share of Belarus, the Ukraine and Kazakhstan has increased. In 2016/2017 the export to these markets increased by 24%, in the same year the export to the EU countries decreased by 10%. This decrease was caught by the markets outside of the European Union.

Due to the closed Russian border the Polish sector had to look for new markets. They were found in Singapore, Thailand, Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, Libya, Saudi-Arabia, Kuwait en Vietnam. The figures show that these markets are still small and cannot compensate for the loss of the Russian market. A challenge for the sector is the quality upon arrival in these faraway destinations. The apples are easily damaged en route.

China formally opened its borders to Polish apples. In 2013 a train connection between Chengdu and Lodz was taken into use. This route is now used for transport apples. Polish exporters hope that the United States and Canada will soon open their borders to their fruit.

Due to an oversupply in the market the import has been under pressure in recent years. For this season, however, a revival of the import is expected, particularly towards the end of the season, as the apples don't have as good a storage quality.

Pears: same story
The pears are in the same situation as the apples for the most part. The harvest estimates are contradictory, but each estimate agrees that less pears are being picked. The sector itself sets the estimate at 40,000 tonnes, a decrease compared to the 55,000 tonnes a year before. The Polish government reports 60,000 tonnes this season and 81,500 tonnes last season. The frost in spring was also the cause of the lower pear harvest. 

Some apple growers switch to the pear cultivation, which is more lucrative. The Conference is the main variety, worth 60% of the production. Other popular varieties are Lukas and Local Favorite. The export is 22% lower and rests at 40,000 tonnes as a result of the smaller harvest. Belarus, Kazakhstan, Lithuania and Latvia have become more import sales markets in recent years after Russia closing the border. The export to these countries has risen by 70%.

The import is expected to increase by 14%, which is 40,000 tonnes. Last year most pears were imported from the Netherlands (22,075 tonnes) and Belgium (5,224 tonnes) worth 73% of the import together.

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