Good Fruit Grower

November 2015

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30 NOVEMBER 2015 GOOD FRUIT GROWER construction of packing houses and favors cooperatives, so many small grow- ers have gone into business together. Poland also receives preferential treat- ment because of its status as an emerging economy. Apples are presized and put into stor- age rooms that typically have a capacity of 480 bins and are equipped with dynamic controlled atmosphere (DCA). Apples are packed on demand. Packers take orders in the morning, pack the fruit in the after- noon, and truck it to a distribution cen- ter by evening. Trucks can travel freely within mainland Europe. Ostenson learned that Poland exported half of its apple crop last season. Its main varieties are Idared, Gala, Jonagold, Golden Delicious, Pinova, Topaz, and some local varieties. Russia was a big market before it imposed an embargo in response to U.S. and E.U. sanctions over Ukraine. Fruit is still shipped into former Soviet states, including Belarus. Because of the difficulties of export- ing to Russia, Poland is now eyeing the same markets as Washington—in Asia, Indonesia, and the Middle East for exam- ple—and is 4,000 miles closer to India. Most of the packing companies have their own sales desks, but they are begin- ning to merge so that they can supply sufficient quantities to fill ships headed for export markets. For example, a ship traveling from Poland to Indonesia would get there in half the time if it didn't have to stop to pick up other freight along the way. "They're the sleeping gorilla that's wakening up," Ostenson warned. "I think they're going to be a major exporter in the world. They're going to have some advan- tages from their location, and they're a non-EU currency country so currently their wages are a fifth of other countries." Although Poland has about 120,000 acres of apples under organic manage- ment, encouraged by EU subsidies for organic conversion, production is very limited. The country has skilled horti- culturists and a similar climate to other parts of Western Europe, so organic pro- duction should be feasible, but many of the orchards are unmanaged and grow- ers lack organic materials, Granatstein reported. While the EU sets a minimum organic standard, each country in Europe has its own process to certify organic materials, and only four products useful in organic apple production have been approved in Poland so far. Also, there's little demand for organic fruit within Poland. In other European markets, Polish organic apples would have to compete with those from Italy, which produces about 3.5 million boxes of organic apples annually. Germany From Poland, Granatstein and Ostenson went to Germany to visit the Altes Land apple-growing region established on reclaimed marshland on the Elba River estuary, near the port of Hamburg. The area has 35,000 acres of apples, of which about 10 percent are organic. Germany as a whole has an esti- mated 12,000 acres of organic apples. The average orchard in Altes Land is about 50 to 100 acres. All the packing plants that Granatstein and Ostenson vis- ited had solar panels covering their roofs and were self-sufficient in power despite the often gloomy climate. Europe offers subsidies for using renewable energy sources. An organic orchard near Frick in Switzerland is protected by a hail cover. Most Polish apple packing facilities are equipped with dynamic controlled atmosphere storage, which allows long-term storage of fruit without treatment with chemicals such as DPA (diphenylamine) or 1-MCP (1-methylcyclopropene) to preserve fruit quality. These 2014-crop Jonagold apples were being packed in early June this year. "(Poland is) the sleeping gorilla that's wakening up. I think they're going to be a major exporter in the world." —Harold Ostenson

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