Poland is not only a country with rich culture, home to such personalities as Frédéric Chopin, Maria Skłodowska-Curie and John Paul II, but also one of the largest producers and exporters of high-quality food in the European Union.
Polish agriculture produces many exceptional and unique food products, which are appreciated all over the world. They are produced from natural ingredients, with attention to preserving nutritional and taste values, while meeting the highest safety and quality standards of the European Union.
With its huge and modern production and processing base, Poland is a net exporter of food. The value of agri-food exports has increased more than sevenfold since Poland joined the European Union in 2004. In 2021, despite the restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, it amounted to a record EUR 37.4 billion, EUR 3.1 billion more than in 2020. Food from Poland is mostly exported to the markets of the European Union countries (73% share in the structure of exports worth EUR 27.1 billion), but Polish exporters are systematically increasing their presence on global markets, primarily in the Middle East, Asia and Africa. In 2021, revenues from Polish exports to non-EU markets amounted to EUR 10.3 billion, an increase by 3% compared to the previous year. The top non-EU recipients of Polish food exports included countries such as the UK, the United States, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Israel, Norway and China.
Polish food is produced with meticulous attention to quality at every stage of production, from breeding to the final product. Production and processing operations are monitored using rigorous food safety and quality management systems, such as HACCP. A ‚block-chain’ system is also implemented in the beef sector to track all stages of food production, transport and storage, verifying certificates and monitoring the supply chain. Many Polish processing plants also produce ‚halal’ certified products. Polish food is produced in plants equipped with state-of-the-art production lines. Food products are often packaged in biodegradable, recyclable packaging and with solutions to ensure long-term freshness. Modern food packaging systems facilitate transport and storage, as well as monitoring of the required storage temperature.
Among the wide range of Polish export offer, Polish meat and meat products stand out, ranking first in the structure of Polish agri-food exports with a share of 19%. The meat sector plays a crucial role in the development of the national food industry and its importance is also reflected in export figures. Poland is the first producer and exporter of poultry meat in the EU and the third exporter of this meat in the world. It is also the EU’s top producer and third exporter of fresh and chilled beef. In 2021, meat, preserves and livestock worth a total of EUR 7 billion were exported from Poland, including 1.47 million tonnes of poultry meat worth EUR 2.7 billion, 372 000 tonnes of beef meat worth EUR 1.6 billion, 411 000 tonnes of pork meat worth EUR 0.8 billion and meat preserves worth EUR 1.7 billion. High quality of Polish meat production is ensured by well-developed quality control methods and the implementation of several quality systems. Polish quality certificates dedicated to meat products are PQS – Pork Quality System, QAFP – Quality Assurance for Food Products and QMP – Quality Meat Program (for beef). Many types of Polish sausages are recognised as EU “Protected Geographical Indication” or “Traditional Speciality Guaranteed”.
Cereal grains and grain milled products are one of Poland’s main export products, holding the second position in the agri-food export structure. Poland is one of EU leaders in grain production. Cereal grains are most often cultivated on family farms which combine tradition and modernity. Wheat is the most popular grain in Poland and wheat flour is one of the dominant Polish export commodities in the grain sector. Natural and healthy Polish grain milled products are competitive on international markets and their flavour is appreciated by consumers. They include bakery products, flours and breakfast cereals, bran, groats, pasta and other products. In 2021, exports of cereals and grain mill products increased by 10% to a value of EUR 4.7 billion.
Polish dairy industry is one of most modern in Europe. Polish milk is mainly acquired from the pristine regions located in Poland’s north and east. The strict observance of EU hygiene and veterinary standards results in supreme milk quality. 75% of milk processors in Poland are dairy cooperatives, mostly with Polish capital, who acquire their raw material straight from Polish farmers. Poland’s dairy offer includes cheeses and curds, liquid milk and cream, concentrated milk and skimmed milk powder, ice-cream, whey, butter and milk fats as well as yoghurts, buttermilk, acidified milk and other fresh dairy products. Poland holds a strong position in the EU when it comes to milk, ranking fifth in its production and fourth in its exports. In 2021, the export value of Polish dairy products reached EUR 2.6 billion.
Excellent Polish sweets stand out among Poland’s export hits. Poland is third exporter of sweets in the EU. This category includes a very wide range of products, such as chocolates, candies, marshmallows, bars, meringues, candyfloss, fudges and toffee, chocolate drops, fruit and nuts in chocolate, boxes of chocolates, chocolate candies and many others. Poland’s sweets export offer ranges from traditional Polish delicacies to modern, innovative confectionery products created in response to changing consumer needs and preferences (including healthy sweet snacks, products with sugar substitutes, gluten-free, organic, vegan, etc.). In 2021, Poland exported 560 thousand tonnes of sweets worth EUR 2.4 billion.
Poland’s flagship export product is fruit, and particularly apples. Polish people’s love for this fruit made Poland the country with the largest orchard area in Europe – 176,000 ha (over 33% of orchard area in Europe) and a yearly production of 4 million tonnes. That is why we are a leading producer and exporter of this fruit – the largest producer in the EU, third largest producer in the world and third largest world exporter (in terms of export volume). Polish apples are considerably crunchy and have a unique, deep flavour resulting from climate as well as the experience of apple growers who draw on rich Polish fruit growing traditions that date back to the 12th century. Thanks to technological progress in storage and transport, Polish exporters are able to provide large and uniform deliveries of apples, maintaining their unique qualities even when supplied to the furthest parts of the world. Poland’s export offer also includes processed fruit and vegetable products, including frozen foods, jams, pulps, preserves, sauces and ketchups, dried and freeze-dried products, and powdered products. Moreover, Poland is a significant producer of apple juice and concentrate as well as other fruit and vegetable juices and beverages. In 2021, the value of Poland’s fruit and processed fruit exports amounted to EUR 1.7 billion, 15% higher than the previous year.
Poland is also an important producer of a variety of exquisite alcohols and alcoholic beverages. The flagship product in this category is certainly vodka, both plain and flavoured. Other top Polish alcohols include beers, wines, ciders, meads and artisanal alcohols such as “nalewka” made by macerating fruit, roots, flowers, spices, herbs or nuts in strong alcohol. Poland is the biggest vodka producer in the EU and the fourth in the world. In beer production, too, Poland has achieved a strong position: second in the EU and ninth in the world.
Nevertheless, Polish export potential is much greater than the trade performance recorded so far. Poland is one of the largest food producers in the EU and generates significant production surpluses for almost all the above-mentioned products. Therefore, Polish exporters, in search of new markets for their products, focus their attention on trade cooperation with non-EU countries where significant opportunities for further export expansion may be explored.