Poland's Europe Minister Danuta Huebener announced yesterday that some 300 food plants are about to be closed because they will not be able to meet EU requirements. This move should help the country meet EU requirements to export meat to the EU block after 1 May, an issue which up until recently has been hanging in the balance.
Poland is one of the 10 states which will become part of a new 25-member European Union. Of those prospective members Poland has the largest economy and naturally its food and beverage sector will have the biggest impact on EU-wide trade once enlargement has taken place. Much speculation has been focused on its progress with regards meeting EU safety objectives, with the meat sector being singled out as a particularly poor example.
However, Huebener, who is set to become Poland's first Commissioner to the EU, has stated that in the last few weeks much of the work that the government has put into gearing the food and beverage has come to fruition.
"If you compare the situation with the beginning of February, the progress is tremendous," she said in an interview with Reuters. "We've completed practically all the preparations with regard to the veterinary and food safety projects."
Huebener went on to stress the fact that because some of the most problematic operations have now been shut down, the attention is now being given to other businesses to help them adjust to the required standards.
She was confident that food processing plants were adjusting fast enough to escape any export restrictions. This leads her to believe that there will be no major problems with exporting meat to the European market after accession has taken place.
However, just as things are starting to look clear on the rocky road to accession, Poland is now being pulled up by EU authorities for stockpiling food and ingredient supplies. The EU has said that the country might face 'huge financial fines' if it does not manage to introduce laws on stockpiling by 1 May in an effort to avoid future price speculating.
National newspapers report that Polish MPs and even the coalition government have plans to contest the law. Indeed, a givernment committee completely rejected proposals to enforce an Excessive Stocks Bill on Tuesday, a move that could lead to further reprisals from the EU.
However, springing to the defense of Poland's food manufacturers, Huebener has said that there is no evidence of stockpiling on the part of manufacturers, despite the rumours.