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Poland and the European Union : A Story of Agriculture

The issues raised by Poland's membership in the Union cannot be simply reduced to the matter of money, even if that was the central point of the Copenhagen negotiations in December 2002. One of the main problems facing Poland as a large agricultural producer is the progressive integration of its production into market economies and into the PAC.

Surveys carried out by Hugues Lamarche1 (of the laboratory Dynamiques Sociales et Recomposition des Espaces — LADYSS)2 in 1988 among farmers from three towns in Poland depicted the situation on the eve of the change from a socialist system to a market economy. Private agriculture at that time, despite the small size of farms (6.3 hectares on average) and the large number of farmers (2.1 million), was far from outmoded in its methods and in standards of living. Intensive and mechanised, small family farms were already at that time producing chiefly for the market.

The fall of socialism overturned this situation. In order to understand these changes, a new survey, ten years later, was conducted among the same farmers, and the results are striking. In a climate of unrestrained adoption of free market practices, without an agricultural policy to help negotiate these changes, two-thirds now find themselves marginalised, while a minority was able to constitute the necessary means of production to become part of the new system of Polish agriculture.

From these findings it can be seen that barely 12 years of transition period were needed to sort out a minority of professional farmers, or farmers in the process of professionalisation, from a majority who are now excluded from an agricultural future. If the current situation becomes the norm, the problem arises of what to do with the more than a million persons thus excluded.

Poland's membership in the Union will likely accelerate this process of change and the establishment of an elite group of competitive agricultural producers. The hope is that those left along the way by this tendency will find employment in other sectors, which are likely to get a boost from Eu membership.



à lire

• Hugues Lamarche, Marie-Claude Maurel. "Transitions agraires en Europe centrale", in Les Paysans au-delà du mur, Revue Études rurales, n°138-140, avril-déc. 1995, Paris.


Hugues Lamarche
Senior scientist at the CNRS

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