Sunday, 10 August 2014

Eat Polish apples, drink Polish cider

So Putin's pulled down the shutters on Polish food imports - this will hurt those Polish producers and middlemen who thought they could prosper by feeding The Bear. The embargo will reverberate across the Polish economy - GDP growth is likely to slow by a few tenths of a percentage point (outturn for 2014 more likely to be 2.9% than 3.3%), while inflation will fall - maybe even into deflationary territory - as a result of oversupply on the Polish market.

The #JedzJabłka ('eat apples') campaign across the social media is gaining traction; if you want to hit back at Putin, buy Polish apples. Poland is the world's number one exporter of apples and number two producer of apples. Outside in our garden, the apple tree is groaning with apples that come September will start falling to the ground in abundance.

As Poland begins coming to terms with an apple mountain of unprecedented proportions, media pundits have taken up my call for a massive expansion of Polish cider-making, which requires above all a change in absurd excise rules that class cider over 5% as a fruit wine, rather than as a beer equivalent. [I wrote about this last month.]

The absurdity came to a head the other day when Celtic, a Scottish foot-ball club, visited Warsaw to play against Legia, a Polish foot-ball club. Celtic is sponsored by Magners, a cider brand unavailable in Poland, containing 4.5% alcohol by volume. Legia is sponsored by Królewskie, a well-known beer brand containing 5.8% alcohol by volume. Now, because Magners is a cider and the advertising of cider - even on the shirts of visiting foot-ballers is prohibited in Poland - the Celtic players had to change their shirts to ones not bearing the brand. Beer adverts, on the other hand, are fine. And because Poles like the taste, brewers get round the ban by simply adding apple juice to beer (Redds, Warka Radler, Lech etc). This is the type of regulatory madness must be stamped out with extreme prejudice.

If Poland is to soak up the apples that Putin won't buy, it needs to be able to add value to them - by pressing them in local cider-presses and fermenting the resulting juice into high-quality cider. And advertise that cider in the same way that beer is advertised. And exported in quantity to the free world.

In the meanwhile, Polish cider sales are booming. From nearly zero in 2012, Polish consumers drank 2m litres of cider in 2013; this year sales are expected to reach 10m litres (By way of reference, British consumers drank 1,000m litres of cider last year - the UK being the world's no. 1 cider producer and consumer of cider.) And things are looking good at Auchan - the price of Weston's Old Rosie has come down from 17zł to 10zł a half-litre bottle - a benchmark of cider excellence.

Below: Polish cider (Cydr Lubelski) and Polish apples. I bought this cider because it was the only Polish brand available in Auchan today - there was Warka Perry and lots of fruity concoctions from the Baltics - plus of course Weston's Old Rosie and Weston's Vintage.

Mr Finance Minister please - get rid of the requirement for an excise band over the bottle, reduce the excise duty on all ciders to the same level as beer, and scrap the ban on cider advertising. And do so quickly, before Putin's embargo can do any lasting harm to Poland's agricultural economy. Below: the banderola, or excise band. You'll find this on cigarettes and vodka - but why-oh-why on cider? This is plain nuts.

Poland has such a huge potential when it comes to cider. It just needs the ministries to deregulate and liberalise. The market will do the rest.

Additional reading - in Polish
Countdown to Putin's fruit embargo
Poles are eating 'Freedom Apples' (and drinking cider in solidarity)
and (thanks for the link Paddy)
Cider ad ban likely to be scrapped

This time last year:
Hottest week ever (37C - that's 9C more than it was today)

This time two years ago:
Progress along the second line of the Warsaw Metro (still no sign of its impending completion as I write)

This time three years ago:
Doric arches, ul. Targowa

This time four years ago:
A place in the country, everyone's ideal

This time seven years ago:
I must go down to the sea again

1 comment:

Bob said...

Michael - almost all of the EU countries are being affected by the Red Bear's embargoes. It is pain that must be accepted.

With that said, what should be done in the agriculture realm, in my opinion, is to convene an immediate meeting of EU Agricultural heads. They should be in a position to know exactly how their country is affected.

Then they should work together to figure a way to mitigate the Bear's embargo by absorbing this export short-fall by doing some simple horse trading. OK Poland has excess apples and pears for example, Italy grapes, Britain beef - let's get XXX KG reallocated around and do some balancing. Show the Red's that this won't work as we have a strong internal market in the EU.

And maybe if that can be done, when the Red's lift the embargoes the EU can say, 'sorry, we don't have any excess XXX or YYY but if you want some the price will be higher than market.

Let them eat bread and water and go back to half empty shelves and lines for meat.

Will it happen? Doubtful, I don't think the EU folks will get the proposition. Maybe you and I should spearhead it.