Poland has 677,000 tonnes of apples which, under normal trading conditions, would have made their way to Russia.
But because of Moscow’s retaliatory food embargo on EU fruit and vegetables, they haven’t.
The Russian tit-for-tat move follows the EU’s decision to impose sanctions on Russia’s banking, oil and defence sectors because of Moscow’s alleged actions in Ukraine.
Poland is the European Union’s second-biggest apple producer, but Polish apples have been banned from Russia since the beginning of August.
Eat apples, drink cider
Poland tried to offset the ban by launching a campaign to promote its apples using the hashtags #jedzjablka, or #eatapples.
As apple farmers wait patiently for that particular push to bear fruit, some have suggested that the entire country should switch to a diet of apples and cider.
“We decided to go out onto the streets with these apples to show Vladimir Putin what we think of his politics and to show our farmers that we support them,” said one person.“The whole country should be eating apples today.”
Poland is keen to limit any damage to its agricultural sector and has asked the EU to draw up plans to withdraw the surplus from the market and compensate farmers.
Poland’s agriculture minister Marek Sawicki said the country’s farmers affected by the ban should receive aid.
“I want our producers to receive the best compensation possible from the European Union, at least the production costs. It’s not their fault and it’s not Poland’s fault either,” said Sawicki.
Perhaps the core issue is where to put so many apples.
“We asked the Commission to help us avert the crisis this season and allow us to deal with the surplus by distributing it to charities, turning it into biofuel or simply using the apples as organic fertiliser,” said Sawicki.
European Agriculture Commissioner Dacian Ciolos has said he would soon announce measures to help support fruit and vegetable producers.
In the meantime, Poland is looking to tap markets in Algeria, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, Vietnam, Singapore and India.
Warsaw has also asked the United States to open up its market to Polish apples, said Poland’s ambassador to Washington, Ryszard Schnepf.
He has dubbed them “freedom apples” in an almost desperate attempt at persuading Americans that they have some sort of patriotic duty to tuck in.
The closing off of a major export market, meanwhile, threatens to hurt segments of the eurozone economy at a time when growth is pretty poor anyway.
There was no economic growth between the first and second quarters of this year in the eurozone and year-on-year the growth rate is just 0.7 percent.
The Polish deputy prime minister has said in an interview with local media that the Russian ban on imports could cut Poland’s 2014 GDP growth by 0.6 percent.
Warsaw has said it would push for domestic consumption to increase in order to cushion the fall in sales.
An apple a day keeps Putin away
An advertising campaign on board Warsaw buses suggests people “eat apples to spite Putin”.
But some analysts say Russians will suffer. Food prices have already risen significantly in many areas and there are shortages of some goods.
Russia’s economy is not expected to grow much this year. Interest rates are expected to rise further as the food import ban pushes up inflation.
Other countries, such as Switzerland, Turkey, Serbia and some of its small ex-Yugoslav neighbours that have not followed the EU in imposing sanctions on Moscow, are exempt from Russian retaliation.
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