Poland: Organic Manufacturers Conquer New Markets
by Redaktion (comments: 0)
There are already a few well known organic manufacturers who produce both for the home market and export. Although there are too few further processors as a whole, some areas are well covered, as in the case of noodles, that are produced in the country and successfully marketed. Other good examples are the processing of fruit and vegetables to make juice and the production of freeze-dried herbs and strawberries.
Picture: Mr. and Mrs. Babalscy with son
Organic wholemeal noodles are even sold successfully outside the organic sector in supermarkets. Basically, the market is shared by one manufacturer in the north and one in the south of Poland. Mieczyslaw Babalscy, an early organic pioneer processes local grain in the north, and Zofia Miskiewicz, a longstanding committed proponent of organics, produces wholemeal noodles (picture below) in her house in Krakow. Both of them supply several hundred shops, either directly or via wholesalers. These two manufacturers have been processing a large proportion of the grain (for example, spelt) available in their region.
For 23 years, Aleksandra and Mieczyslaw Babalsky have been operating their farm organically. The graduate, charismatic farmer converted to bio-dynamic farming as early as 1983. In order to enhance the value of the grain crop, the activities of the 10 ha farm were expanded in 1990 to encompass the manufacture of noodles. It was not long before his own crop was not sufficient, and he bought up organic wheat, rye and spelt from his neighbours. Today, his supplies no longer come from a few neighbours but from a hundred organic farms. Every day one tonne of flour is processed by seven employees in a small warehouse next to his home. Mr. Babalscy’s eyes light up when recounts the eventful story of the organic movement in his region (Brodnica), a story involving a great deal of personal commitment. His noodles can be bought in over 300 shops in Poland, with 70 % being sold via wholesalers, 20 % to individual shops and 10 % on-farm.
Krakow is about 400 km as the crow flies to the south, and it is here that Zophia Miskiewicz (picture) started producing noodles at the end of the 1990s in the converted cellars under her house. She processes not only the grain crop from her son’s 86 ha farm but also from other organic farms in the region. Mrs Miskiewicz, a fluent German speaker, processes three to four tonnes of flour every month to produce seven different noodle varieties. Her specialities are noodles with paprika, turmeric and basil, and noodles with cinnamon flavour. Her products are sold in and around Krakow in both whole food shops and a few conventional supermarkets, that are supplied direct or via wholesalers. The market for organic juices is similarly well supplied.
The biggest organic juice factory is Bio Food that was founded in 1994 in Golub-Dobrzyn, not far from the university town Torun in northern Poland. Thirty organic farmers supply the raw materials for seven different juices (picture), ranging from milk-sour beetroot juice to celery juice. The range, that is distributed to 80 outlets in Poland, includes products like bottled gherkins and paprika. 100,000 bottles (0.3 l) of the main product, namely the juices, are dispatched every year. The main production period is from September to December, when the crops are juiced. Each season, about 40 t of gherkins, 100 t of cabbage and 40 t of celery are processed. The three partners who own the business are pleased with the rate of growth in turnover (around 20 % a year). They are Michat Krolikowski (managing director), Roman Swiniarski (consultant) and Tadeusz Chimkewiz (organic farmer). Juices are not exported; only gherkins are sent to France and Lithuania. Around 40% of the goods produced are sold in Warsaw, where there is the highest number of organic outlets. “It is getting better and better, and I am optimistic about the years ahead,” is Mr Chimkewiz’s confident comment. He explains that no support is forthcoming from the regional administration but that consumer demand is increasing constantly. For this reason, Bio Food took the decision in the summer of 2005 to extend their production facility to 900 m².
In contrast, there is hardly any domestic market at all for Lyovit in the town of Kielce (about 150 km south of Warsaw) . This company produces both conventional and organic freeze-dried herbs and fruits which are basic ingredients in convenience products like frozen pizzas and mueslis. Freeze-dried strawberries are the company’s main organic product and in the 2005 season around 5 t were marketed. The firm, that was founded in 1992, has been processing organic products since 2001. Its owner and managing director, Jerzy Godek, transferred a special technology from the field of medicine to food. He started with the herbs dill, oregano, basil, chives and thyme before moving on to various berry fruits (strawberries, raspberries, bilberries and blackberries) and also apples. To ensure that the boxes are not mixed up, conventionally produced goods are in blue boxes and organic goods are in green boxes (picture).
There is a small experimental plot with herbs and a strawberry field of 2000 m² behind the company’s premises. After preliminary cleaning and then washing, the produce is cut up and freeze-dried in seven special freeze-drying cupboards. After this procedure, the dry goods weigh only 10 % of the original weight and have a water content of below 5 % (instead of the 12 % in the case of goods dried in the usual way). The dried goods are removed from the drying shelves, prepared, vacuum packed and put into 5 kg cartons for volume customers. Because they would absorb humidity within a few days, the dried herbs and berries must not be allowed to come into contact with the air.
The price of freeze-dried organic goods is about 30 % higher than conventional prices; sliced strawberries, for example, cost about 25 Euros/kg. In the season, 15-20 regulated organic producers supply the raw materials that are processed at a production facility about 15 km from the firm’s office. According to Agnieszka Lutwin (an employee fluent in English), the company is still having difficulty making itself known abroad and finding new customers. Lyovit employs 10 people in the office and 20-40 in production. The company processes the crops from about 150 ha of organically farmed land, as estimated by Mrs Lutwin (picture), who is responsible for quality control in the company. Lyovit has not exploited consumer packs of dried fruits crisps that other firms, such as Juers in Hamburg, are already marketing. (Picture below: freeze-dried strawberries with chocolate)
In a big old industrial building reminiscent of the communist era, you find a seed merchant’s firm that sells organic seed as well as conventional. PNOS in Ozarow Mazowiecki, 15 km west of Warsaw, markets a range of more than 30 varieties of vegetable seeds. The former state-owned enterprise is the only one out of five state-run seed companies to specialise in organic production as well. Whilst PNOS has so far been selling seeds mainly to amateur gardeners and a small number of vegetable farmers in Poland, they are now looking for contacts abroad. This seed company collaborates with 15-20 Polish propagators but collaboration with the Italian firm Semence has led to another 30 providers of organic seed. The result is quite a big range of popular vegetable varieties. As well as being available at other outlets, the seed packets are on sale in its own shop on the company’s site half an hour’s drive from Warsaw. Customers can buy beans, beetroot, various sorts of marrows, cucumbers, lettuce, radishes, etc.
The organic seed is sold in bulk (picture) to farmers. According to information supplied by the company, the prices are about 50 % higher than for conventional seed. The company estimates that approximately 1 % of the 11 million Euros turnover achieved in 2004 was attributable to organic seed. PNOS sells 400 different sorts of conventional seed.
Over the last few years, PNOS’s own garden centre has been built up next to the company buildings. However, organic plants are not yet on sale here. Founded 56 years ago, the former state-owned enterprise saw a better chance of surviving after the fall of communism by adding another string to its bow, namely specialising in organics. The firm is managed by Justyna Parkot (right); the English speaking Joanna Lasocka (left) is the link with the export trade that they want to develop. Whereas exports account for 15 % of turnover in the conventional sector, exports of organic seed are insignificant.
Zaklad Producing - Bialkowo
87-400 Golub Dobrzyn
Tel/Fax: (o-56) 683 44 79