Poland’s food trade with South America: filling in the gaps

Poland is an EU member and a major food producer in its own right. That means, when it goes looking for imports, its searching for goods that can’t be filled by either domestic efforts or its European trading partners.

Food and drink imports represent 10% of Poland’s total annual merchandise imports, making them an import market is worth potentially billions of dollars for exporters.

So when Poland isn’t buying food from EU member states, where is it getting it from? For some key commodities, Polish producers look thousands of miles away from Central Europe to the far flung reaches of South America.

South America represents over a billion dollars in food & drink imports for Poland

Collectively, South America’s total food exports to Poland, according to data from MIT’s Observatory of Economic Complexity (OEC) come to around $1.2 billion. This would put the region as Poland’s biggest supplier of imported food and drink items outside of the European Union.

Asian countries, for comparison, sends products worth around $900 million to Polish importers annually.

Yet the structure of these imports differs from the usual. Brazil, for example, is the world’s largest exporter of beef and is a substantial force in the poultry and pork sectors too. But, crucially, Poland ranks amongst the EU’s chief meat manufacturers. That means its imports of meat from South America are negligible.

Fruits, nuts, coffees, and seafood are at the heart of South American food exports to the Polish market. Much of these varieties are products that Poland does not produce domestically, or if it does they are produced for international markets, rather than Poland’s domestic scene.

One of the key trends in Poland’s food industry is Poles’ increasing preference for both naturally produced, un-processed foodstuffs and international cuisines. In short, Poles are striving to be more healthy in their lifestyles and are acquiring a taste for foreign meals and recipes too.

It’s these aspects of modern Polish culture that is leading to importers to search further afield for new food and drink products.

With the headline stats out of the way, let’s take a look at Poland’s main South American food trading partners, the foodstuffs in hot demand, and import values of some favourite import categories.

Argentina, Brazil: Poland’s leading South American food partners

It will not come as a shock to find out that Brazil and Argentina, the region’s top two economies, are Poland’s top trade partners in South America. Together, they represent nearly $800 million in agriproduct turnover, OEC data says.

But, as explained above, its chief food exports, meat, does not end up on Polish plates. Rather, their chief exports are as follows (data from OEC, 2015):

• Argentina – $566,400,000 exports incl. $498 million in soybean meal, $10.9 million in fresh fish fillets, and $18.3 billion in processed fruits and nuts.
• Brazil – $225,000,000 exports incl. $46.1 million in fruit juice, $26.6 million in coffee, and $8.73 million in ground nuts.

Fruits are a particularly fruitful source of revenue for Brazilian exporters supplying Poland. For example, Brazil’s exports of fruits, including citrus, other tropical varieties, bananas, and melons, came to just shy of $11 million in 2015. For Argentina, processed nuts and fruits are an $18.9 million export market when it comes to Poland.

Colombia, which exports just over $55 million worth of produce to Poland each year, relies almost exclusively on bananas. $50.4 million of its total food exports bound for the Polish market are bananas and bananas alone.

For Ecuador, it’s the same story. The nation sent $143.6 million in food and drink exports to the Polish market in 2015, of which $80 million was covered by bananas.

Elsewhere, countries like Peru and Chile keep the fruit supplies flowing. Chile sent $9.28 million worth of grapes to Poland in 2015, whereas Peru shipped $4.2 million of tropical fruits there during the same year.

Seafood is something of a speciality for South America – in particular Chile. Chilean sea bass and salmon is renowned across the globe for its taste and quality. Poland, it seems, is no stranger to Chile’s sea bounty as it imports around $31.5 million worth of fresh and filleted fish and seafood from there annually.

South America is a source of drinks for Poland

South American coffee, tea, and extracts thereof, are exceedingly popular amongst Polish consumers, and import values reflect this.

Poland imported $26.6 million worth of coffee products from Brazil in 2015, for example. For Ecuador, Poland is a market for tea and coffee extracts worth $41.6 billion.

Wine is another product in demand by Polish importers. In fact, Poland’s wine sector is one of its fastest growing alcoholic drink market segments. Sales have grown 60% since 2004. And while European producers make up the bulk of Polish wine import volumes, South American countries are getting a good showing too.

Chile is the largest supplier of South American and New World wines to Polish consumers. Exports amounted to $14.9 million in 2015. Argentina, a fellow wine producer with global recognition, sent $2.85 million worth to Poland during the same year.

Meet Poland’s buyers at WorldFood Warsaw

South American food and drink producer? Looking to tap into Poland’s multi-billion food import market and grow your business leads there and across Europe? WorldFood Warsaw is your destination.

Each year, thousands of domestic and international visitors flock to the show. Why? To actively source new suppliers, get hands on with the latest products on the market, and expand their businesses with like-minded partners.

WorldFood Warsaw also features a unique business matchmaking service between exhibitors and potential buyers, distributors, and retail representatives – making it the ideal platform to meet and network with key decision makers of one of EU’s leading alcohol markets.

Contact us today to learn more about Poland’s potential for Asian food and drink – and to discuss your participation at WorldFood Warsaw in April 2018.