Poland's meat and dairy sectors still struggling on EU compliance

Related tags Eu European union

The Polish government has announced that a significant number of
the country's dairy and meat businesses are still struggling to
comply with EU regulations which have to be met by 1 May this year.
As a consequence, a series of closures and consolidations are sure
to redefine both sectors.

The Polish food sector has come under repeated criticism from the EU Commission for its failure to meet EU norms on safety and sanitary standards. At the end of last year, warning letters were sent out to the respective Polish authorities in an effort to speed up compliance in time for accession.

To keep an eye on the current situation, EU compliance inspectors have been sent to Poland to assess how much progress has been made since the last inspections. The inspectors will be focusing on the dairy and meat processing fields with regard to the implementation of EU hygiene and sanitary regulations.

However, compliance to date has proved to be poor, with few companies managing to meet regulations. And many of the companies still struggling to meet compliance are reported to be a long way from their targets.

According to official figures published by Polish newspaper Rzeczpospolita​, only 127 meatpackers and 52 dairy companies have obtained EU export permits. This leaves a more than 1,500 meat processing plants and some 172 dairies still trying to meet compliance regulations by 1 May 2004 - a goal which many industry observers see as being unrealistic.

Considering the current situation, the deputy minister of agriculture, Jerzy Pilarczyk, has said that around 1,000 meat plants and 40 milk-processing companies will almost certainly face closure, as no moves towards compliance have been made. Most companies blame a lack of financial resources as the main cause of the failure to comply.

The final result will mean a major shake up for the country's dairy and meat processing businesses. Most of the businesses facing closure are smaller players, so both sectors look likely to become dominated by the larger players. Indeed, it is believed that many of the larger production facilities currently facing closure will be bought out by the more dominant players.

On the negative side the move also means that many workers in the sectors will lose their jobs, with current estimates put at more than ten thousand redundancies by mid-2004.

However, the EU authorities have given leeway to a number of companies, granting extensions of up to two years to fulfil all the requirements. Some 289 meatpackers and 99 dairy plants will continue to trade after 1 May, despite not having met EU guidelines. Their products will have to carry a label which clearly states that their products may only be sold on the domestic market.

Many of the companies that have been given transitory status have also benefited from EU grants, which have helped finance plant overhauls and renovations.

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