China was supposed to be a paradise for Polish apple exporters, one where they would be able to sell their surplus fruit following the Russian embargo. This market was also supposed to be the engine for investment in the industry and its transformation; however, things have not gone to plan.
“In the 2016/2017 season, apple exports to China amounted to just over 1,000 tonnes; in the next, i.e. from July 2017 to June 2018, they fell to 6.5 tonnes, i.e. legally nothing. Given the promotional campaign that took place in China, and the tremendous efforts made to open this market, this is a very poor result,” said Mariusz Dziwulski, an expert at PKO Bank Polski.
Appolonia, a consortium of producers, was in the spotlight. In June 2016, just after Poland’s official entry into the Chinese market, it signed a letter of intent with the China-Poland Trading Platform for the delivery of apples to China. The prospect was to sell 40,000 tonnes of dessert apples worth 40-50 million USD per year, which is probably the largest contract in the history of Polish fruit-growing. Later, another contract was signed with Chongqing Jinguoyuan Trading, a company specialising in fruit imports, but the volumes and amounts eventually achieved were not as expected.
Przemysław Błądek, member of the board of Appolonia, explains that exports couldn’t be made due to formal problems. “In the 2016/2017 campaign, we shipped about 700 tonnes to China, but our hands were tied this last season. There was a formal problem. In China, the institution that signed the protocol opening the market has changed. As a result, officials are not able to issue us with the phytosanitary certificates necessary for the fruit’s sale. We’ve had to sell more and more to Vietnam or Bangladesh and leave China for now.”
This season, according to some experts, should be really interesting, as frosts have hit China. According to various estimates, the local apple harvest will be reduced by more than 30 percent, and the Chinese have a huge production, so they will have to buy some dessert apples and concentrate somewhere else, and they will also export less. So even if Poland fails to sell it the goods, it should be able to take some of China’s share in the global markets.