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Anti-crisis Shield for the Horticulture Business Sector

01 april 2020
The Union of Fruit-Growers of the Republic of Poland proposes changes which befit the coronavirus pandemic time

The  coronavirus epidemic  made the Association of Polish Fruit Growers write to Mateusz Morawiecki  Republic of Poland Prime Minister. The letter contains suggestions for actions designed to alleviate the effects of the impending crisis  in fruit farms as well as companies which work for fruit sector - producer groups, trade, transport and packaging companies, etc.

The tragic events in Italy, Spain, France and other developed countries have been closely observed. Fruit production measures and the local authorities reactions have been analysed by the Association of Polish Fruit Growers which resulted in proposals for protective and supportive activities. Once implemented in accordance with the further pandemic course, these measures may stop possible industry collapse and help those who suffer the greatest losses.  These measures should be launched alongside the situation development in order to prevent potential losses and compensate for lost income if the case of fruit market collapses.

Actions targeted at fruit farms:

1. All bank loans repayment time extension for at leas one year and suspension of interest collection on the loans for the same period.
2. Quick payment of overdue aid for natural disasters in 2019, i.e. drought, spring frosts and others.
3. Quick payment of area payments for 2019, if the payment date has been postponed due to the complicated nature of the applications.
4. Increase excise duty refund rate from the price of diesel oil used for agricultural purposes adequate to the fuel consumption in fruit growing.
5. Launch of interest-free loans scheme from Bank Gospodarstwa Krajowego  for farms which are facing the biggest market problems because of no revenues, a minimum one-year grace period in instalments and interest pay-off.
6. Launch of special allowances scheme for families for households survival whenever they have no creditworthiness or other non-agricultural sources of income.
7. Exemption from paying contributions to KRUS Farmers' Social Security Fund for the duration of the pandemic without effecting later retirement and reduction the amount of retirement pay.
8. Increase of the support rate for the farmer's inability to work because of coronavirus pandemic and compulsory quarantine - equalled to the in other non-agricultural professions.
9. Support for the jobs creation on the farm for people who lost their jobs in their current positions and want to start fruit farm employment.
10. Exemption from property tax for the duration of the pandemic while compensating municipalities for the income lost as a result of the exemption. 
11. Electricity price freeze increase for electricity used on the farm, used e.g. to power refrigeration equipment, sorting lines, irrigation pumps and other equipment.
12. Exemption from fees for water used for the crops irrigation purposes and protection against frost and other purposes.
13. Increased subsidies for agricultural insurance from the state budget, change of the deadline for frost insurance from April 25 to April 1, due to faster vegetation. Reduction of insurance (in percentage) rates owing in the companies which are partially owned by the State Treasury, i.e. PZU. Required - last year's level, because this year rates are much higher (30% and more), which significantly increases the burden on the fruit grower.
Activities on the seasonal employees market:
1. Allowing in employees from Ukraine and other non-EU countries who are interested in starting work and have already received relevant documents allowing them to enter Poland, including:
- continuation of issuing relevant permits by Starostes and Poviat Labuor Offices
- restoring the visas scheme enabling fruit farms work as harvest assistants
- allowing employees from Ukraine and other non-EU countries to cross the border while maintaining the quarantine period and other security requirements during their stay in Poland
- release for collectors helpers from KRUS and income tax contributions and premiums
- enabling employment as collectors helper format for Poles who lost their current job or found unpaid leave which does not result in a conflict in terms of tax and social security contributions with their current employment status, including exemption from contributions to KRUS and income tax
- simplification of the rules for seasonal workers admission to Poland from other countries - simplified basis as was the case with Ukrainian citizens so far.

Fruit producer groups, trade, transport, packaging companies, etc. targeted schemes

1. Property tax exemption in the event of a restriction or actual cessation of business activity, compensation for the revenue lost for communes - paid from the state budget.
2. Compensating of ZUS contributions on employees if they maintain their jobs.
3. Foreigners employment on similar principles as in the case of fruit farms.
4. Exemption from some of the requirements arising from the Operational Programmes in view of the inability to meet the requirement due to the difficult market situation.
5. Prolongation of current bank loans pay off for the duration of the pandemic and freezing of interest payment.
6. The possibility to provide financial assistance to maintain financial liquidity and interest-free loans from Bank Gospodarstwa Krajowego.
Assistance and threats proposals were presented, among others, by  "Unia Owocowa" Association of Fruit and Vegetable Distributors.

Other measures:

1. Fruit trade opportunities on wholesale markets, marketplaces and bazaars, as these are the only places where fruit products may be sold by many farms. This allowance includes direct sales.
2. Extension of the application period for RDP and postponing the effects which should be obtained  - these were the condition for the correct settlement of some RDP activities.
3. Simplification of the rules for ecological certificates by safety reasons related eliminaton the need for on-site inspections by both WIORIN and certification bodies.
4. Purchase prices guarantee for fruit used for processing - a minimum level required. This is supposed to coverage expenses. A possibility of renegotiation of previously signed contract contracts in the event of inability to deliver raw material due to lack of man work power at the harvest time.
5. In the event of a collapse in fruit purchase for processing purposes, intervention buying launch for energy purposes and strategic reserves.

Promotional and information activities.

One of the possible scenarios is that some consumers may refrain from buying fresh fruit. This may related to ungrounded fear that the fruit may spread the virus. There might be not enough money to buy fruit as a result of the crisis in other sectors of the economy. A large action is necessary, not only will it eliminate the fears, but even make you aware that eating fresh fruit increases the efficiency and body immune system  Thus enhances body’s ability to self-defence against coronavirus and other.
The Association of Polish Fruit Growers  is in the process of writing such a programme for marketing activities and will soon submit it to the Fruit and Vegetable Promotion Fund in order to obtain financial resources for its implementation. Without this type of market activity, there is a certain concern about the demand for fruit produced in Poland - there may be a great problem with selling produce at reasonable prices.

Implementation of these proposals will not be easy and quick, this is an obvious thing.  Some of the proposals require a change in the laws, regulations and the European Commission consent, and even changes in EU law in some cases. Some proposals are an extra burden for the state and local governments budgets and their subordinate units, others come free. We also believe that some of these proposals should be implemented systematically as the situation develops.  Further proposals may be presented and introduced, because no one in the world has experience and readily available solutions which can be used in combat against this terrible disease and its effects,  some issuers require immediate action. Disregard can have catastrophic consequences.

However, it is undeniable that the fruit industry has generated substantial income for the state. Everything should be done to ensure the sector’s survival in very difficult period.

On behalf of the Association of Polish Fruit Growers,
Mirosław Maliszewski - President