Quick Scan on the Polish Potato market and policy
Potatoes have traditionally been an important crop for Poland. Although the production area has been decreasing, from 648,9 thousand hectares in 2008 to 329,3 thousand hectares in 2017 (8), the cultivation of potatoes maintains an important part of the Polish agricultural production.
The most serious factors limiting the development of the Polish potato sector are:
- fragmentation of production,
- decrease in consumption of potatoes by Poles, and
- presence of the potato disease ring rot, causing export restrictions.
To solve the latter, the Polish government launches a special programme to eliminate the disease. If EU export restrictions will be lifted, this creates opportunities for export of the Polish potatoes.
Back to 1990: Poland was the second biggest potato producer in the world (only the Soviet Union was a bigger producer). As a single country, its production equaled that of the whole European Community. Yields per hectare were lower than in other countries (on average 18-20 ton per ha), but total production equaled 36313 thousand tons in 1990 (1).
Forward to 2018: according to Eurostat, total potato production of Poland was 7 311 thousand tons (total EU production: 51 846 thousand tons). A decline of more than 75% is noted compared to 1990. However, Poland still is the second largest potato grower in the European Union after Germany (8 920 thousand tons), and is followed by France and the Netherlands.
There are currently 350 000 potato producers in Poland cultivating larger or smaller quantities, of which only 50 000 are officially registered. Farmers who cultivate potatoes on land smaller than 1 ha most often do not register their plantations. This causes a problem because they sell their products only on domestic market (local markets mainly, not in shops) and therefore are also partly responsible for the phytosanitary security of the country. The majority of farms producing potatoes in Poland were still small-scale farms in 2017. These small farms have an average acreage of 0.3 ha. The country has 9000 more intensive potato farms; these have an average acreage of 13.2 hectares.
According to Polish research institute (IHAR-PIB O/Jadwisin 2018), Poland’s largest potato cultivation area is found in the region Wielkopolskie (42000 ha), followed by Łódzkie (40000 ha), and Mazowieckie (38100 ha). The smallest cultivation area is found in Lubuskie (2800 ha). Although yields increased in the past decades, large yields do not correlate with large cultivation areas. The highest yields are in Opolskie, Dolnośląskie, and Lubuskie (35.9, 35 and 31.7 dt per ha respectively). For the areas with the largest cultivation area, yields are lower, namely 23.7 dt/ha (Wielkopolskie), 26.7 dt/ha (Łódzkie) and 25.0 dt/ha (Mazowieckie).
Decreasing consumption and export restrictions
A troubling factor for the Polish domestic potato production is the decreasing demand for potatoes. Recent years saw a decline of domestic consumption of potatoes up to 100 kg per capita a year in 2016 (in 2013 according to FAOSTAT 104 kg per capita a year; a decline of 28% compared to 1990 or 20% decline compared to 2004). The decreased demand for potatoes in the domestic market creates perhaps a need to focus on foreign markets. However, Polish potato export figures are lagging behind. According to FAO stat, within the European Union, Poland is the 11th largest exporter of potatoes, with a yearly export of 26.7 thousand tons. Worldwide Poland holds the 36th place in export of potatoes. For imports, it has risen substantially, currently holding a 20th position in the world. The export/import situation contrasts significantly with the situation in 1990, when Poland was the 4th largest exporter of potatoes in the world (704.3 thousand tons of potatoes), and was not reliant on imports, being number 162 in the world for imports.
After Poland’s accession to the EU in 2004, Poland faced several export restrictions due to the presence of potato disease. Poland had a high level of infection of potatoes with Clavibacter michiganensis ssp. Sepedonicus (in short: Cms), the bacterium causing ring rot disease. The disease is subject to quarantine according to the Directive EC/2000/29/EC. The bacterium infects both its own stems, stolons as well as daughter tubers. In 2004, an unfortunate 23.6% of Polish potatoes was infected. In 2017 numbers of infections had dropped to 6/7% of total potatoes infected, also due to sampling more potatoes per hectare for the bacterium (in 2014 in Poland this was 0.67 ha per sample, one of most stringent checks in the European Union) (5). Part of this may also be ascribed to the 2009 initiated promotional and information programmes, subsidized by 38 million PLN (7).
The infection rate of 6/7% of total potatoes in 2017 is still high compared to the figure of outside Poland, where only 0.93% of total potatoes are infected. Only the use of quarantine and using certified seed potatoes can prevent (further) spread of this bacterium. Nonetheless, precisely the opposite was noted between 1990-2005; there was very little use of certified seed potatoes in Poland. This might have contributed to further spreading of the disease. Simultaneously, it was noted that on very small potato cultivation areas, the use of certified seed potatoes was only 5%, mainly attributed to not-market oriented producers (3).
Hence, the current government in Poland announced the start of a Polish potato programme. The goal is to eliminate the quarantine diseases. Elimination will focus specifically on Clavibacter michiganensis ssp. Sepedonicus (4). With respect to this, Poland announced to host the 21st triennial conference of the European Association for Potato Research in 2020 (6-10 July) in Warsaw (for more information see: https://europatat.eu/europatat-event/eapr-2020-21st-triennial-conference/).
Polish Potato Programme
The Polish potato programme, prepared by the Ministry of Agriculture in cooperation with the sector, includes the following measures to be implemented in a 4 year period (that will most likely start in 2020):
- From the 2020 cultivation season: Obligation to plant potatoes free from Clavibacter michiganensis ssp. Sepedonicus (Cms). Legal obligation to buy potatoes for commercial purposes only from registered entities. Applies to producers who are registered, approximately 47 800 entities. In addition, producers will only bear 50% of the laboratory testing costs (for potatoes other than for planting).
- Subsidies per hectare for areas planted with certified seed potatoes. Infected planting material is seen as a large cause of spreading Cms. Certified seed potatoes should not spread Cms. Only 18.2% of PL farmers use certified seed potatoes. To stimulate use of certified seed potatoes, the subsidy mechanism that is currently in place to use certified seed material remains.
- Compensation of 50-70% of the losses for farms where Cms was found, only for registered producers.
- Biogas production made possible to use infected potato tubers: Subsidy/compensation for farmers donating infected potato tubers to a selected list of biogas plants.
- Extra training for farmers on phytosanitary security, focused on improving knowledge on potato ring rot bacteria to be organized by Agricultural Advisory Centers, in cooperation with industry organizations.
- New labelling requirements for potatoes (country of origin and age of potatoes). A new regulation on this has been already signed by the Polish Minister.
- Intensified controls.
- More and higher penalties for infringements.
- Promotion of Polish potatoes (consumption, campaign “Polska Smakuje”) on the domestic and foreign markets.
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WAR-LNV, 1 August 2019
- S. van Berkum, H. Rutten. De landbouw in Hongarije en Polen. Een Analyse van de concurrentiepositie op sector- en produktniveau. Onderzoek Landbouw-Economisch Instituut (LEI-DLO). December 1992.
- Eurostat. Crop Production in EU standard humidity (updated 16-10-2018), [apro_cpsh1]
- N.U. Haase, A.J. Haverkort (ed.). Potato developments in a changing Europe. Wageningen Academic Publishers 2006.
- Izba Rolnicza, „Program dla Polskiego Ziemniaka”, accessed online on 14 September 2018
- European Commission Food and Veterinary Office. Potato ring rot and brown rot surveys in the EU. Annual Report 2014/2015, accessed online
- Alberta Agriculture and Foresty. Understanding Bacterial Ring Rot in Potatoes, accessed online
- USDA GAIN report. Poland – Fresh Potatoes and Products 2015, accessed online
- Zmiany w uprawie ziemniaka w Polsce w ostatnich dziesięciu latach (changes in potato cultivation in Poland in the last ten years). Patryk Hara & Małgorzata Stanek, Politechnika Koszalińska.