Poland is one of Europe’s biggest producers of grains and oilseeds, although unfavorable weather produced a highly disappointing 2018 harvest. Historically, it has had large numbers of small farms, although the long-term trend is toward consolidation. As a Member State of the European Union, the country’s farm policy is largely set as part of the E.U.’s Common Agricultural Policy, with its system based around direct payments to bolster the income of farmers. Poland’s Agriculture Minister is involved with CAP decisions through membership of the Council of Agriculture Ministers, while its MEPs vote on those decisions in the European Parliament.

The International Grains Council (IGC) puts Poland’s total grains crop in 2018-19 at 26.3 million tonnes, down from 31.5 million the previous year. The wheat crop in 2018-19 was 9.8 million tonnes, down from 11.6 million the year before. The country’s barley crop fell to 3.2 million tonnes from 3.8 million and production of oats fell to 1.2 million tonnes from 1.4 million. Production of rye in Poland in 2018-19 was 2.3 million tonnes, down from 2.6 million in 2017-18.

Production of rapeseed in Poland in 2018-19 was 2.1 million tonnes, down from 2.7 million the year before. The USDA attaché, in an annual report on the sector published in July, putting the crop at 2 million tonnes, 26% down on the year, said: “This production decrease stems from unfavorable weather conditions during fall planting in 2017 and drought conditions in May-July 2018.”

The IGC does not list Poland’s maize production, but an attaché report on the drought-hit crop, dated Nov. 15, put 2018 output down 26% from the previous year at 3.2 million tonnes.

An April 2018 report prepared for SUFISA (Sustainable FInance for Sustainable Agriculture and fisheries), an E.U.-funded project, described grain production as a crucial branch of Polish agriculture.

“When it comes to total agricultural land utilized for grain production, Poland has a second place in the European Union, but the volume of grain harvest gives the country the third place in Europe after France and Germany,” the report said.

The report, prepared by a group of academics from Jagiellonian University in Kraków, also pointed out that Poland has the highest agricultural population in the E.U. and is second to Romania in the number of farms.

“In Poland, the percentage of people working in agriculture, hunting, forestry and fishing industry is 2.5 times larger than the percentage of people employed in these sectors in the E.U.-28 overall,” the report said. “Polish agriculture is characterized by great fragmentation. However, the average farm size has been increasing in recent years.”

According to the Polish Farm Ministry’s 2017 Statistical Yearbook of Agriculture, there were 1.4 million farms in the country in 2016, compared with over 1.5 million in 2010. Just 34,652 farmers were of 50 hectares or larger in 2016, a figure that has risen from 27,024 in 2010.

The number of people working on farms, measured as an Annual Work Unit (AWU) of 2,120 hours labor in 2015-16 was 1.676 million, of which 650,000 were women. The equivalent figure for 2012-13 was 1.937 million AWUs, of which 867,300 were women.

As a Member State of the European Union, Poland’s policy approach to agriculture is governed by the E.U.’s Common Agricultural Policy. The policy is up for reform post 2020, with a proposal from the E.U.’s executive, the European Commission, which would pass much of the responsibility for setting national systems back to the Union’s members, subject to overall requirements set at E.U. level. In a joint statement declaration with his counterparts from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, Polish agriculture minister Krzysztof Jurgiel set out what Poland wants from the reformed policy.

The document, signed in the Latvian capital of Riga, calls for greater “fairness and equality” between Member States, attacking a familiar gripe of Central and Eastern European countries whose farmers are paid subsidies at lower rates than in their Western counterparts. The ministers point out that “all E.U. farmers have to meet the same standards and requirements and face the same challenges.” They want to see budget, which the E.U. is also renegotiating, against the messy background of preparation for the U.K. leaving, set at a level that would provide “appropriate financial resources.”

The European Parliament’s Agriculture Committee is chaired by MEP Czesław Adam Siekierski, a member of the European People’s Party grouping in the legislature. The position makes Siekierski one of the most influential figures in the setting of European farm policy.

Milling sector

The European Flour Mills put the total number of mills in 2017 at 400 with a total milling capacity of 7.4 million tonnes. Of the 400, 210 have a capacity of over 100 tonnes a day, 154 between 30 and 100 tonnes a day, and 36 fewer than 30 tonnes a day. Capacity utilization is put at between 60% and 70%. Mills use 4.2 million tonnes of wheat and 900,000 tonnes of rye each year.

The most important milling companies are GoodMills Polska, which has four mills with a capacity of 500,000 tonnes, and the Dr Cordesmeyer group, Polskie Młyny, according to its website the biggest Polish flour producer with two plants, one with a capacity of 800 tonnes of wheat a day and one that can mill 390 tonnes of wheat and 50 tonnes of rice a day. Młyny Szczepanki has two mills with a total capacity of 500 tonnes a day, which it is in the process of increasing to 800 tonnes a day. Interchemall Zespół Młynów Jelonki can produce 700 tonnes a day. Stoisław has a daily process capacity of 600 tonnes of wheat and 200 tonnes of rye, as well as 35 tonnes of barley and 60 tonnes of oats.

Other big milling companies are Komplexmłyn, Młynpol and Lubella.

According to European Flour Millers, Polish flour consumption is 110 kg a person each year, with bread consumption at 46 kg.

The wheat used by Polish millers is 98% domestic, while 100% of flour used is domestic.

Opposes GE crop production

In a report dated Jan. 31, 2019, the attaché reported that the government had extended an exemption to the 2006 Feed Act. The act banned the use of genetically engineered feed ingredients, but the exemption, which has been renewed repeatedly, allows their use to carry on.

“According to a statement by Polish legislators, Poland currently lacks viable alternatives for imported soybean meal due to local climatic conditions and insufficient supplies of locally-grown plant proteins,” the attaché said. “Language in the newest extension obligates the Minister of Agriculture to develop domestic, non-GE protein alternatives to imported plantproteins.”

An annual attaché report on biotechnology from October reports starkly that “Poland currently opposes of the use of genetic engineering (GE) in agriculture and prohibits the cultivation of GE crops.”

“According to national polls, nearly 70% of Polish society opposes the use or cultivation of GE crops and products,” the report said.

An annual E.U.-wide attaché report from July put Poland’s ethanol consumption at 340 million liters in 2018. Fuel ethanol production in 2018 is put at 265 million liters.

“In Poland, capacity in ethanol production is below 30%,” the report said. “It is anticipated that increasing domestic demand will result in higher use of this capacity. Due to the significant surplus of production capacity, further investments in this area are not expected.”

The report put Poland’s biodiesel consumption in 2018 at 970 million liters.