For the French apple farmers, it is impossible cover the production costs with a selling price of less than one euro.
The president of the National Apple & Pear Association (ANPP), Daniel Sauvaitre, raised the alarm during a visit to Rungis, where he found apples from Poland sold at a returned price in full trucks going from 0.18 to 0.48 €/kg [0.09 to 0.24 USD/lb].
According to customs data, the quantity of imported Polish apples has been multiplied by twelve in a year: 13,900 tons from August 2018 to February 2019, compared to 1,158 tons for the same period the previous year. “The general food assembly concludes to a strong expectation of local and quality products. Yet, the imports of cheap apples from Poland are invading the market and finding buyers without any problem,” notes Josselin Saint-Raymond, director of ANNP.
For 10 years now, Poland has been modernizing its orchards thanks to European subsidies. Producers benefited from financial contributions covering up to 80% of the development and restructuring costs on the farms. Poland has therefore become “the world’s second largest producer, at the same level as the United States. But, at the same time, it has not managed to develop its markets and more importantly, it has lost its historical client, Russia, because of the Russian embargo,” explains Daniel Sauvaitre.
Officially established at 4.8 million tons, the Polish apple production probably exceeds 5 million tons. This represents 37% of the total harvest of the European Union, which now amounts to 13 million tons, a 7% increase from the average of the previous years. Josselin Saint-Raymond notes that “about 70% of the Polish harvest was processed into concentrate.”
Poland ends up structurally in surplus. This explains its aggressive conquest strategy directed towards new markets and made possible by social, environmental and sanitary regulations which are among the lowest in Europe.
“Labor costs, which represent 60% of the apple production costs, are 75% lower in Poland than in France. They are 50% lower than in Italy, which is already 37% lower than in France. Besides, Polish apple producers are not familiar with the transposition of European regulations in terms phytosanitary treatments, regarding the marketing or use of pesticides. And there is no goal like the Ecophyto plan to reduce their use,” explains Daniel Sauvaitre. “Some volume regulations have been included in the law for school canteens imposing 50% of local products, quality-certified and respectful of the environment. However, the European public market regulations do not allow restrictions based on origin and are only based on the lowest price. The economic operators who respond to these offers therefore have every chance of winning the markets if they propose Polish apples at 0.50 €.kg [0.25 USD/lb] and with no guarantee other than the fact that they follow European regulations, instead of French apples from eco-responsible orchards at 1 €/kg [0.5 USD/lb], in strict compliance with specifications that guarantee a production respectful of the environment and the use of alternative and complementary methods to pesticides, such as sexual confusion or biocontrol.”
“A majority of the Polish apples sold on these markets present serious marking defects which makes ‘francization’ easy.” The European marking rules, which are very clear, require the identification of all shipments of apples in layers or in bulk. An all the more legitimate concern that the DGCCRF, challenged by the kiwi interprofession, revealed on March 25th, 2019; more than 15,000 tons of kiwis from Italy, which is about 12% of the yearly volumes of the French market, had undergone “francization”.