Polish food, especially meat, is becoming increasingly popular in Asia. Polish food exports to China have quadrupled in the first six months of 2013, propelled by high demand for pork. Pork was also the main factor behind a 44 percent increase in food exports to Japan, while those to Saudi Arabia grew by 23 percent. On the negative side, however, exports to Turkey fell by 61 percent due to an unfavorable customs policy for meat products.
Polish pork is landing on an increasing number of Asian dinner tables
Despite its growing popularity in Asia, the majority of food exported by Poland is still bought by EU members such as Germany (€2 billion) and the UK (€682 million). Russia, despite a series of incidents involving Polish produce, also increased its imports of Polish food in H1 2013 by 21 percent to €641 million.
In late August, Russia complained about a batch of Spanish fatback which had been illegally shipped with a delivery of Polish meat. According to chief veterinary officer Janusz Związek, however, the illegal batch did not originate in Poland. Considering that the refrigerated truck transporting the meat went through Lithuania and Belarus before entering Russia, and that the seal on the container did not resemble a Polish one, the illegal fatback was likely added to the shipment en route to its destination in Moscow, Mr Związek told business daily Puls Biznesu. The Polish meat plant from which the delivery was sent, however, has been banned from exporting any meat to Russia until the matter is resolved.
Similarly, Polish cheese producer Polmlek was blacklisted after Russia returned 12 metric tons of its cheese in late August, alleging that its labels were forged. Only two days earlier, Russia’s food safety inspectorate, Rosselkhoznadzor, expressed reservations about the quality of Polish fruit and vegetables imported to Russia. According to the authority, out of six tons of products with higher-than-acceptable nitrate levels, four tons came from Poland.
No ‘trade war’
Polish Agriculture Minister Stanisław Kalemba said he does not consider the recent disputes over Polish produce a “trade war” with Russia, as some media reports have claimed is brewing. “It is a matter of stricter standards,” Mr Kalemba explained in an interview with Polish Radio.
The minister said that Russia’s recent actions are not directed at Poland alone but at all EU countries. “Poland cannot complain it is being treated more rigorously by Russian [food inspectors],” Mr Kalemba added.
Still, after a series of incidents involving Polish meat products in the first half of 2013, including reports of horse meat found in Polish beef, the industry has a lot of bad PR to make up for. “The [meat] business’ image has suffered greatly. We need to regain our customers’ trust,” Andrzej Gantner, head of the Polish Food Producers Federation, told the Newseria news agency.
Overall, Polish food exports rose by 13.8 percent in the first half of the year, totaling almost €9.3 billion. Even with imports rising by 4.1 percent to nearly €7 billion), the trade surplus for food products stood at €2.4 billion and was 56 percent higher than last year.
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