Poland; third potato grower in EU

On October 30, Farm Frites Poland celebrated their 25th anniversary. One of the leading producers of frozen French Fries in Central and Eastern Europe. The fries are exported to 11 European countries for the main customer McDonalds. Reason for us to have a brief look at the potato sector in Poland.

25 years Farm Frites Poland

In 1993, two Dutch companies Farm Frites and Aviko decided to enter the Polish market. In the north of Poland they found a location which reminded them of the Dutch polder and it was decided to build the factory there. In 1994 the potato processing company started production. At that moment, the potato varieties in Poland weren't suitable for processing, so on a former state farm Farm Frites Poland started with growing suitable potato varieties on about 3.500 ha. Now Farm Frites Poland is contracting about another 4.000 ha, the main variety being Innovator. Farm Frites Poland has developed in one of the leading potato processing companies in Central and Eastern Europe, producing French Fries for main customer McDonalds for 11 European countries.

Potato sector Poland

Production area

Poland is the third potato producing country of the European Union, after Germany and France with an estimated production of approx 7,5 mln tonns in 2018. The production is declining also due to the drought. This year it might even be necessary that Poland will need to import potatoes for the processing industry. Not that Poland in itself is not producing enough potatoes.

The potato growing area is approx 300.000 ha, but 38% of that acreage consists of areas smaller than 1 ha and 39% is between 1 and 10 ha. In total approx 400.000 farms are present in Poland who grow potatoes but only about 10% is bigger than 1 ha if you look at the number of farms. Production is therefore fragmated and on top there is lack of irrigation in combination with dry summers.

Another challenge is the relatively low amount of use of certified seeds, which is estimated at 13%. Because of this, the export market for seed potatoes is basically closed since the assumptions from potential importing countries is that deceases are present. Seed potato companies are combining forces to look for ways to increase the amount of certified seeds, for example by promotion of tracebility in the retail. The expectation is that in the coming years, the potato growing area will decline but that it will become more professional. This will also depend on the political support for the issue of breeders rights and payment of royalties by the smaller farmers.

Dutch seed potato companies have a market share of 38% in Poland.

Changing consumer market

The consumer market in Poland is changing when it comes to table potatoes. There is increasing demand in higher quality and more packaged potatoes in smaller quantities instead of buying bulk potatoes from a large bag. One of the reasons might be that more Polish people are working abroad in western Europe and are taking over these shopping habits. And did you know that Polish consumers do not like red skin potatoes? It is associated with the potatoes which were originally used for feed for the cattle.

Further reading

In the summer we published a longer article with a quick scan of the potato market and the program of the Polish government to support the potato sector. Please find the link here

Would you like to read more about the growth of potato processing in Poland? Please read this article (in Dutch) which was part of the specials of Agroberichten on the potato sector in spring 2018 https://www.agroberichtenbuitenland.nl/landeninformatie/polen/achtergrond/aardappel_sp