26 (121) 2016
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Export potential of Świętokrzyskie’s agri-food sector

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BPCC supports conference in Sandomierz.

The event, organised by the Marshal’s Office of Świętokrzyskie province, was held at Sandomierz’s Royal Castle on 26 August 2016. The conference, which attracted around 90 representatives of food growers and processors from the region, was focused on how to optimise their export potential. Sandomierz is a region with a thriving fresh fruit and vegetable sector, which historically has exported mostly to Russia and Ukraine. Since 2014, the economic and political situation has changed for the worse, and producers are looking to expand into new markets. The aim of this conference was to summarise the economic potential of the region, to show the potential of other export markets, as well as to talk about the optimal routes to those markets. As well as presentations and discussions, the event was focused on B2C meetings between producers and the importers from other countries.

For the first time, thanks to an invitation from the BPCC and generosity of the Marshal’s Office of the Świętokrzyskie province, the conference was attended by the importer from the UK – Adam Shepherd, managing director of North Star Foods, a major supplier of vegetables to the ready-meals market. He emphasised interest from the British side to buy Polish products during the panel discussion, in direct talks with producers and in media interviews.

Marek Szczepanik, member of the board of the Świętokrzyskie province, and Marek Bronkowski, the Mayor of Sandomierz, officially opened the conference. Grzegorz Orawiec, the director of the Department of Regional Policy introduced the BPCC and its role in providing the producers with trade opportunities in the British market. The main issue facing fruit and vegetable producers is switching to modern production, processing and logistics – and to redirect their exports to new markets. An example was the creation of the New Silk Road, involving rail transport to China, which should link the Świętokrzyskie province with the Chinese markets by 2020.

Representatives of buyers from Romania, Serbia, India and Iran spoke at the first panel, while Janusz Stasiak, the managing director of San Export Group, a support group for fruit farmers from Sandomierz, talked about production, export and profitability of sector.

Producers’ representatives explained how they viewed the opportunities and threats for local production, which to gain an advantage over their western competitors have to tailor their products to the specific overseas market and create relevant advertisements and marketing materials. The issue of the additional promotion aroused a heated debate among participants, in particular whether the building of a brand should be funded by national government, local authorities or local producers’ groups. A representative of the state-owned bank BGK talked about the support that Polish businesses needs when operating on markets of increased risk, including securing the transactions. The panel was attended by all guests from Poland and other countries.

The next panel discussion was devoted to selling Polish vegetables and fruit market to the markets of the EU, and was chaired by Michael Dembinski, the BPCC’s chief adviser. Other panellists included Marta Smolarek, BPCC export service manager, and Adam Shepherd, from North Star Foods. Mr Dembinski said: “Poland`s 13th place in the ranking of apple-exporting countries to the British market is unacceptable, if we take into consideration a great potential of Polish fruit and vegetables. Three of the top five apple exporters to the UK – South Africa, New Zealand and Chile – are from the other side of the planet. Where are the Polish apples?”. Giving a hand to Polish fruit farmers is the aim of the BPCC which can find buyers for Polish products and also advise how to negotiate profitable trade deals.

Zbigniew Rewer, leader of  local producers group, and Zbigniew Roch from the European Business Club, talked about the regulations that can stand on the way to British and other western European markets for Polish fruits and vegetables. Panellists were all in agreement – Polish apples are high quality, and growers should aim to sell them at premium prices rather than to try to undercut competitors on price

The third panel was related to export to the Commonwealth of Independent States in which representatives of Romania, Ukraine, Iran and Serbia presented their opinions.

Jerzy Stefański, the Polish representative in the upcoming universal exposition EXPO in Kazakhstan, talked about the opportunities for promoting Polish products at international trade fairs.

After the conference, there were B2B meetings, followed by a dinner in Sandomierz’s Imperial Hotel.

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