There is no doubt that Polish companies compete using high quality products. Meeting the specified EU standards and possessing quality certificates significantly influences sales in export products.
Competition in high quality products amongst producers on the international market motivates us to act. The uniformity and repetitiveness of high quality products and striving for their improvement are basic requirements that should be met by each manufacturer. Export is the driving force of our economy. Good products, which have certificates issued by product certification bodies, sell wonderfully in the international market. Quality above all. IFS, BRC and ISO are certificates often required to participate in a tender. The distributor must be certain that the product that reaches the hands of the consumer is safe.
Higher standards in exports
The value of agri-food exports in the 1st quarter of the year, compared to the same period in 2013, increased by 7% and was above 5 billion euros. About 80% is exported to EU countries. Imports amounted to 3.6 billion euros, i.e. 1% higher than the previous year. The positive balance of trade in agri-food products was 1.4 billion euros compared to 1.1 billion euros in the 1st quarter of 2013.
Poland takes 8th place amongst the most important food exporters to the EU. The value of the trade balance in agri-food products places Poland in 5th place amongst the 11 EU member states, with a positive balance in the exchange (the others are net food importers). Between 2003 – 2013, the value of Polish agri-food exports rose from 4 billion euros to approximately, 20 billion euros. Poland has become an important net exporter of food. The influx of new technologies as well as EU funds, such as SAPARD (2002-2006), allowed for the modernization of domestic processing plants. Then, the situation in international trade began to change, our producers' offer in exports became richer, year by year. Together with our accession to the European Union in 2004, tariff barriers disappeared, which made food export easier. Our indigenous products have become sought after, due to their price, which are low as a result of the lower production costs and cheaper raw materials. The quality of our products have also improved, due to the modernization in the food industry.
The Strength of Polishness
In the era of globalization in international markets, quality certificates are a modern way to guarantee the strength of the company and the high quality of products. Today, all food producing plants must apply HACCP norms. Many firms have implemented even more advanced and demanding quality management systems, such as, IFS, BRC or ISO 22000. These are international systems recognised beyond the Polish boarders. Possessing these certificates is the gateway to trade with networks of foreign companies.
For a while now, EU countries have used various methods to inform consumers about the benefits of traditional products. In regards to this, promotional programmes are being carried out involving, among others, branding agricultural and food products characterised by their high quality or even traditional production methods. This are shown by symbols, such as, the system 'Protected Designations of Origin'.
In response to the standards applicable in the European Union, Poland has introduced, for example, the food quality symbol system 'Quality Tradition', developed and monitored by the Polish Chamber of Regional and Local Products. As the name suggests, this mark is intended for products with a long tradition and, at the same time, are of high quality. The system is aimed at distinguishing quality food, taking into consideration the traditional products used. Recognising this system, as a national food quality system, gives its beneficiaries the opportunity to take advantage of the support mechanism for the participation in and promotion of regional and traditional products in a similar way as for products registered in the EU system of food quality for regional and traditional products.
The increasing demand for traditional Polish food draws in more and more companies. Additional incentives are the high margins. In Poland, more than 385 companies specialise in the production of regional products. Manufacturers come, because the list of traditional Polish products derived from different regions of the country are lengthening (with names producers from other countries cannot use). Producers are also coming in because they appreciate the benefits from registering the products. This increases brand recognition and demand. Producers emphasize that obtaining a certificate to produce a protected product opens the door to foreign markets. St. Martins croissants are now sold in the United States, Britain and Cyprus. Polish Lisiecka sausages are conquering Germany, Belgium and the United Kingdom.
Another Polish system distinguishing our products is the Discover Great Food Programme, which is a tool of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development used to promote food products of the highest quality.
Since 2006, the contest for local products “Now Poland” (Teraz Polska) has been organised. The purpose of this contest is to award the emblem "Now Poland" to products of a local nature, produced in a traditional way, closely associated with a particular region.
The Polish Centre for Accreditation
Both Polish and foreign food consumers purchasing products accredited by the certification body, the Polish Centre for Accreditation (PCA), are assured that money spent on the products are safe and of good quality.
The manufacturers of such certified goods, thanks to multiple international agreements signed with the PCA : EA MLA (European co-operation for Accreditation - Multilateral Agreement), ILAC MRA (International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation - Multilateral Recognition Agreement) and IAF MLA (International Accreditation Forum - Multilateral Agreement) are recognised as equivalent accreditations granted by all signatories. They are confident that virtually all markets around the world are open to them.
The European Union released two very important documents relating to programmes supporting the production of high quality food. The first being, the Council Regulation (EC) No.1698/2005 from 20 September 2005, which concerns the requirements for being granted financial assistance by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD). The second - Council Regulation (EC) No.1974/2006 - is an extension, practically detailing the rules of the said Council Regulation. They are proof that the EU is paying great attention to the significance in the promotion of Member States' quality policy, aimed at producing and delivering products of the highest quality to the market. Such products include pork, beef and poultry.
That is why, at the request of the Union of Producers and Employers of the Meat Industry, and the Polish Association of Beef Cattle Producers – The Polish Accreditation Centre has initiated the establishment of two specialised technical committees: Quality Assurance for Food Production (QAFP) and the Quality Meat Program (QMP). The committee proceedings were attended by representatives of all stakeholders: breeders of cattle, pigs and poultry; consumers; the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and PCA. As a result, two documents were developed: 'the accreditation of certification bodies in terms with the QAFP systems according to PN-EN 45011' and 'the accreditation of certification bodies in terms with the QMP systems according to PN-EN 45011'. They contain, among other things, the specific requirements, which should be met by the certification bodies in the QAFP and QMP systems, in order to be considered credible and competent.
The Polish Accreditation Centre also accredits the conformity assessment bodies in the field of integrated crop production (IP). This is a modern system of food quality applying special attention to the protection of the environment and human health. Participation in the IP system allows to obtain healthy foods of plant origin, which is noted not to have exceeded permissible levels of pesticide residue, heavy metals, nitrates and other harmful substances. The acknowledgement of high quality crops from IP is a certified and registered trademark, branded IP.
In the area concerning the quality of food, PCA accredits conformity assessment bodies in the field of organic farming as well as regional and traditional products.
The producers' share in the national food quality schemes are financially beneficial - annual payments from the European Union and the reimbursement of a substantial part of the costs incurred: for promotional and informational campaigns in the press, radio, television or other media; and promotional expenses at the point of sale, such as, the preparation of stands and advertising materials; costs of participation in trade fairs, exhibitions, as well as the costs of training and conferences. (Detailed information on these issues can be found on the website of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development: www.minrol.gov.pl).
New international markets require certified products. The brand must be recognizable and associated with high quality.
Meat, sausages, cheese, sweets, alcohol - these and many other Polish food products meet international standards, are certified, and Polish factories have certificates confirming the quality of their operations. Nowadays, it is impossible to remain on the market based solely on low price. Good quality, diversity and innovation are the key to success.