Progress of the Polish village
The idea behind “25 Years of Polish Agriculture. Food safety in Europe”, the Report whose presentation was held on November 26th at the “Science, Business, Agriculture” conference in Puławy, was to spark a public debate concerning the importance of agriculture in the Polish economy. The Report contains the analysis of a number of issues concerning the Polish food sector, and presents some of the potential solutions to the key challenges in the next few years. We need to keep in mind the fact that the future of the national grocery sector is closely linked to the development of the commodity-producing farms, which have the opportunity to become even more competitive and modern, both with regard to technology and economy.
Development of Polish agriculture and food security
Food security has become o hot topic in discussions about the situation in Europe and the world. We therefore need to make frank observations about the Polish agriculture. Time has come to look at agriculture as a business sector. One of the challenges for the future is the development of the rural areas. Our Report stresses the importance of food security. Seeing that the demographic growth is so rapid, we are headed for the production of 70% more food without compromising its quality said Professor Janusz Igras, the Deputy Director for Scientific Purposes of New Chemical Syntheses Institute in Puławy, and a co-author of the Report. At the outset of working on the Report, we made it our goal to prepare analysis and forecast which would constitute an important element in debates about the future of agriculture and the connected sectors.
Polish countryside in the EU
Joining the EU has triggered a number of changes in the Polish agriculture. Those changes have continued to be implemented and have been bringing tangible benefits. First of all, the trade of food and agricultural products has grown. Poor know-how and knowledge, which had been the norm in the Polish countryside before joining the EU, was replaced by the drive to raise one’s competences and gain access to innovative solutions. Also, Polish agriculture has turned towards precision farming and farm management systems, while commodity farming appears to be an important point of reference in the forecasts for the future. Almost 30 billion EUR of EU funding which was obtained by Poland in 2004-2013 was mainly spent on investments, including new machinery. As a result, it has become possible to vie for international consumers in a more effective manner. This has been confirmed by the poll results. 71% of the surveyed farmers believe that Polish agricultural enterprises and agricultural brands as capable of competing with their counterparts from other countries of the EU.
Modern Polish countryside
Polish countryside has experienced visible changes, not only due to the introduction of agricultural machinery or the improvement of the infrastructure co-financed by the EU, but also thanks to new technology. According to the Report, 86% of Polish farms have access to the Internet, and 71% of those use Internet’s potential by making purchasing decisions or researching information. If we look at the changes in the farms, using new technologies has also played an important role, including the use of IT tools in farm management, for example in planning field irrigation.
The agricultural production landscape in which our farmers function is very diversified. Various regions vary by the kind of cultivated crops, production planning, fertilization and irrigation methods. The stage of development of particular regions is evident in the better or worse skills and sophistication of agricultural technology. The implementation of effective solutions is possible if those mechanisms are mastered. PUŁAWY Competences Center aims at looking for fertilizer formulas for specialist crops and particular kinds of soil. Another important task is creating fertilizers which may be applied at the same time as the seeds, so that the nutrients from the product may be released to the soil gradually. Such intelligent application methods are meant to assist the farmers in their work, and have a positive impact on the soil and the environment.
Risk and change management are equally important skills. Such abilities make it possible to adapt quickly to changing weather, climate and economic conditions, and to introduce modifications of production methods and product diversification. The task is not to maximize crops, but to optimize costs, using various kinds of tools that are available. The farmer’s job may be compared to that of a doctor, who needs to make observations, give a diagnosis, and apply suitable treatment methods, rather than operate on the patient immediately. What can be done to make sure that the resources available are used in the most efficient manner? Supporting the production is necessary for the simple reason that handing out money without specifying the goals usually has dire consequences. A mechanism of land ownership concentration needs to be created. Unfortunately, the current policy does not support such mechanisms. The laws and regulations need to be modified, so that they support the process of making land ownership structure more efficient.
The representatives of the agricultural sector perceive the potential of their food products. The first five companies distributing food were created in 1990 and based on Local Cooperatives “Peasant’s Self-help” (GS), which had functioned in the Communist period. Those distributors began to develop agricultural advisory services, in order to make it possible to offer their products in a more competent manner. The system proved efficient when it was necessary to help farmers to obtain grants and subsidies. However, at present the agricultural policy has become overcomplicated. The agricultural consultants have more and more tasks, while the farmers have the obligation to create business plans, to complete complicated applications, etc. Such duties and other bureaucratic obstacles stifle the farmers’ creativity and the urge to continue developing. Agricultural consulting is making a step from theoretical knowledge to its practical application. Educating farmers and promoting useful knowledge and skills, which may be used in their day-to-day work, is a priority for the agricultural advisory services.
The potential of the Polish countryside
Raising the competitive edge of the agricultural and food products is one of the main challenges for Polish agriculture at present. Such resources as land, labor and capital are being used in an efficient manner in other EU countries, and it is the time to start leveraging this potential in Poland as well. The development of rural areas is equally important and includes the dissemination of good ideas and examples to follow for the farm managers. The agricultural sector is currently responsible for over 13% of the Polish export. The Polish agricultural entrepreneur boasts considerable knowledge about managing a farm, agricultural advisory services are gaining importance, and there is a move towards sustainable farming and precision farming. This provides an optimistic forecast for the next 25 years.
Download “25 Years of Polish Agriculture. Food safety in Europe” report here.