Anthony Snell, one of the UK’s largest soft fruit growers and president of the International Blackcurrant Association (IBA), has warned that Poland’s unregulated blackcurrant-producing operation is hampering the sustainability of the global blackcurrant market.
Poland produces around 130,000 tonnes of blackcurrants for an international market of an estimated volume of 600,000 tonnes annually (according to The Institute of Agricultural and Food Economics). Whilst Russia produces the highest volume of blackcurrants, it mainly produces them for its own market, which means that Poland is currently the largest producer for the global market. Given the country’s important role in the blackcurrant world, Anthony – whose Herefordshire farm grows some 700 tonnes of organic and conventional blackcurrants – was therefore keen to learn more about Polish production.
Piotr Baryla, the Polish vice-president of the IBA and the president of the KSPCP – the Polish blackcurrant association – kindly organised an informative trip that saw Anthony joined by the James Hutton Institute’s blackcurrant breeder, Dr Dorota Jarret.
Anthony said: “It was a fascinating and beneficial trip, made more enjoyable by the superb Polish hospitality, and in most cases the genuine desire for industry change, which will hopefully be made possible by the collaborative support of the IBA. We spent two days visiting numerous growers large and small in the Lublin area, which produces 50 per cent of the Polish blackcurrant crop, and is also home to the KSPCP cooperative run by IBA vice president Piotr Baryla. This pioneering organisation has about 50 growers and manages about 10% of the Polish production.”
“As a grower, it was immediately noticeable the difference in crop quality and yield potential between the professional growers and the amateurs who had weedy, pest- and disease-infected low-yielding plots of aged varieties.”
He added: “Poland is a great country, but the way its blackcurrant production operates is causing major problems in the world blackcurrant market because it is producing without any proper platforms. In most developed countries in the world you have full traceability, with full auditing throughout the whole system. When we supply our blackcurrants in the UK we say which date they [the blackcurrants]were picked and the field they were picked from, and they are residue tested. But in Poland fifty per cent of those who produce blackcurrants are hobby farmers and they do all sorts of things to their crops – or nothing at all. The processors should only be buying from those professional growers who are fully audited. Poland needs to have more planned production and more sustainable production.”
“We need to make it a sustainable industry.”
As an organisation, and as a result of this visit, the IBA is collating thoughts and advice for the Polish Blackcurrant industry ahead of next year’s conference in Angers France from June 6-8, 2018.