“As a country, we are not self-sufficient. We won’t develop without economic and trade ties.” – says Roman Jagieliński – Former Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Agriculture of Poland, Founder of the Roja Fruit Producers Group.
PolandWeek.com: Where overseas may your apples be found?
Roman Jagieliński: In the Far East – Singapore, Hong Kong or India. In the West – Canada. In the South – Senegal, Gabon. In the North it is Norway. Regarding closer markets in Europe – Czech Republic, Romania, Bulgaria.
What is your Group’s approach to China? Recently there was a lot of talk about the New Silk Road.
We are very interested in business cooperation with China. Trains of The New Silk Road find their final stop in Łódź, so it’s close to us. Last year the Chinese performed an audit in Poland. We count on this export destination. We should bear in mind that, as a country, we are not self-sufficient. We won’t progress without business ties and trade links.
With such volume of output, export is necessity or better earnings?
It is both necessity and profit. However, above all, it is necessity, because there is no chance of selling such amount of goods in the domestic market. We trade mostly with Europe, but this year, for example, large part of income in our balance of export was made by Egypt. Our sale is quite dispersed. Polish sales networks generate approximately 50 percent. The remaining 50 percent of production is export.
Transports over long distances – to Canada or Hong Kong is not possible all the year around. We can start executing an order in October but in Mai we have to close it. Why? During the summer months we pick species, which can’t be transported in containers for such a long time as a month.
And we don’t sell goods of lower quality anywhere.
There are such a glossy, polished apples in grocery stores.
There are varieties, which we are not able to grow because of (on account of) the climate. Red Chief variety, for example, is now being planted. We think that we will be able to get them to the market soon.
How about new varieties? Are there fashions for apples?
Yes, there are and we have to keep up with the global market trends. Currently Gala is a global variety – it has deep, striped tint. We receive inquires about this variety from North America, Africa, Asia and obviously from Europe. Among desired varieties we also have Polish “Champion”. Wherever we sell it, it is positively assessed.
After embargo on trade with Russia has been introduced, an action encouraging people to eat apples appeared across social media. Did it have impact on the market?
I think it had. Statistically in comparison with the period before embargo, apple consumption per person increased from 14 to 16 kilograms. Unfortunately, there is a shift from apples in Europe.
How do you see the nearest years in the Group? What is your direction? Obviously, apart from the fact that some unexpected situations like embargo comes about.
Above all, we need to consociate, integrate on a consensual basis, through agreement on trade together. Certainly, we will have more opportunities, when we provide additional funding. But it is the future, because at the moment we are at the stage of investments. When we complete them, we will start cumulating capital. Financial resources will be used for further integration. In general, larger producers’ groups are effectively managed, incorporate smaller groups. That helps, because the larger ones have greater market power.
In 2015, you were honored with Commander’s Cross of Polonia Restituta for promoting Polish agriculture.
I have never sought for decorations. I did several things well or very well. For example, I predicted a character of transformation in Polish agriculture. Currently we don’t have semi-subsistence and large farms (small-holder farmers). We have commodity or social farming. I called that correctly.
I managed to restore tradition of Polish cavalry. I was a chairman of National Council of Folk Sport Teams for 16 years. I also run the Association of Cavalry Squadron of the Republic of Poland. Also, I am very proud of events, which I managed to reactivate. These are Presidential harvest festival in Spała and Hubertus feast.
Tradition takes an important place in your life.
We have our “small fatherland”. I even used to say that Poland would be like Spain. Local tradition and local festivals. In my community, for example, we have honey harvest fest. We have a bee in our coat of arms and national honey harvest in June. It didn’t take place before.
Your Group is a large employer. Where do you acquire your employees?
Company grows organically. We educate our employees for each position. Now we are beginning to experience effects of 500+ child benefit program. To give an example – a woman, who worked in our company and was a good employee, has given up her job. Having three kinds, she decided to spend more time with them.
What do you think about raising minimum hourly wage to 12 zloty per hour?
In reality we pay even more. However, employee doesn’t have so much. If we include social security contribution (Social Insurance Institution – ZUS), leave of absence, sick leave, it looks very different. Labor costs are very high. Let’s assume, if someone has the lowest minimum wage, employer pays social contribution of 500 zloty. It is a cost bore by an employee, because it is a part of a wage. We, as a company, pay our additional contributions, insurances and taxes. It appears that to enable our economy to grow, we will be forced to bet on inflow of work force from the East, for example from Ukraine.
Spare time. What do you like?
I’m a sportsman by nature. I like horses. I ride a horse. I was a President of Polish Horse -Riding Union and a Chairman of Central Council of the National Association of LZS (Folk Sport Teams). I have eleven horses, half blood. I also hunt, ski and sail. Cycling and running are also close to myself. I also manage my two farms. One is 50 hectares, the second one – 150 hectares. So, I don’t have time for boredom.