Poland's agriculture: serious competitor or Europe's poorhouse? Survey results on farm performance in selected Polish voivodships and a comparison with German farms
The aim of this paper is to present an analysis of farm-level data collected in a survey of 464 Polish farms in 2000. Performance indicators of farms in three Polish voivodships are compared with farm accountancy data from two German Länder. The results show that Polish farms were much less profitable than their German counterparts. The gap in income levels is much higher between persons employed in the agricultural sector than between average working persons in the two countries. Living standards within the Polish farm sector decline from the north-west to the south-east. The analysis suggests that the lower profitability of farms is a consequence of pronounced structural deficiencies due to a quite unfavourable workforce-land ratio on Polish farms and hardly a result of lower product prices. Serious technical and economic inefficiencies in the production process become visible in the data. There is a generally conservative attitude among farmers that prefers the continuation of farming over leaving the sector. Nevertheless, income from agriculture is to a substantial extent complemented by off-farm employment in the southern regions. Formal education of farm managers and access to finance appeared not to be crucial for their economic success in the past, although especially the most profitable farms in the north did not obtain as much credit as desired. Our overall conclusion is that Polish farms currently are in the midst of a regional, economic, and social differentiation process fuelled by huge imbalances in terms of income levels between rural and urban population groups. This process is however seriously slowed down or even halted by a number of effective institutional barriers, particularly with regard to rural labour markets. These barriers should be properly addressed by a formulation of future policies in order to avoid further social frictions in the course of the Polish EU accession.
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