POLISH ARABLE farmers have benefited significantly during the first six months of EU membership, dispelling the uncertainty they felt in the run-up to enlargement.

Polish agriculture attach Wladyslaw Piskorz told the EAF meeting that the biggest impact had been on prices, which had rapidly aligned to those in the west.

For example, sugar beet prices had climbed 40% since the start of the year. Cereal prices had fared less well, he added, given the difficult growing season and the effects of this year’s much larger EU crop. But prices were starting to climb again and Polish farmers were not selling any to intervention, even though the stores were now open.

Exports of fresh fruit and vegetables had also expanded since accession, said Mr Piskorz. “Even though we had the ‘zero tariff, zero refund’ agreement before enlargement, we still had border controls which acted as a barrier to fresh produce. That has now gone.”

Polish farmers had also started to receive their direct payments, albeit at a reduced rate to that paid in the EU-15.

Poland had opted for the simple area payment scheme, paying about €100/ha (£70/ha), Mr Piskorz said. About 1.4m applications had been collected, covering 94% of the eligible area. “We are currently paying out about 20,000 cheques a day.”