The event, organised jointly by the BPCC, Mazowsze’s Marshal’s Office and the Mazowsze development agency, ARMSA, gave BPCC members to meet Polish firms interested in the UK market.
After the official opening, the BPCC’s chief advisor Michael Dembinski talked about the UK as a market for Polish food, which makes up almost 18% of the value of all Polish exports to Britain. He talked about how bilateral trade might change after Brexit. Wojciech Górski of BSI Group talked about the certificates that food producers need to be considered by UK buyers, and how the British Standards Institution can help with this. He stressed the importance of the BRC (British Retail Consortium) standard on the UK market.
Marek Schejbal, head of the BPCC Trade Team’s food unit, covered market entry strategy – how difficult it is to break into the Big Four retailers’ listings, and how working in partnership with a complimentary UK producer on a two-way trading relationship that adds value at both ends can help. His message was followed up by Andrzej Faliński, the former head of POHiD, the Polish retailers’ and wholesaler’s body. Mr Faliński talked about own-brand or private label as a way forward for food companies, looking at the many sub-niches which have emerged recently. Competing on cost alone makes no sense, he said, but competing on cost in the premium segment, certainly does for Polish food producers.
Sebastian Szułkowski of Ardens Solicitors talked about English law in the context of trade contracts and collection of payment, explaining the ways in which Polish exporters can check the creditworthiness of their UK partners. He also talked about some of the fraudulent practices to beware of. Edyta Cieślik of Ipsen Logistics covered the specific problems of getting food across the English Channel, highlighting the optimal solutions for exporters.
The increased volatility in foreign exchange markets, and how Polish exporters can hedge against significant fluctuations in the złoty/sterling rate, was explained by Jakub Makurat of Ebury, who said that political risk now has a greater impact on exchange rates than macroeconomic fundamentals. He gave several useful pointers as to how exporters can plan ahead – failure to do so, he said, can mean that what looked like a profitable trade ends up making a loss simply because of currency fluctuations.
Getting paid by UK customers – especially larger ones whose terms of payment can be very long – was covered by Tomasz Rodak of Bibby Factors. He explained how factoring frees up working capital that would otherwise be tied up in unpaid invoices.
Participants at the event also had the chance to learn about EU funding for R&D activities in the food sector. Tomasz Mróz and Marta Krutel from the National Contact Point for Research Programmes (KPKPB) talked about the Horizon 2020 programme and how it intends to support Polish SMEs researching food safety and organic food.
Another programme aimed at SMEs in the Warsaw agglomeration – Grow with Greater Warsaw – is being coordinated by the capital’s authorities; Andrzej Czajkowski explained how firms from in and around Warsaw could benefit.
Małgorzata Rudnicka from the Marshal’s Office covered the Mazowsze province’s intelligent specialisation programme and its role in the region’s economic development, with support from EU funds.
After presentations of the Mazowiecki Science and Technology Park in Płońsk and the AgroBio Cluster, it was time for a well-earned lunch and for networking and swapping of business cards.
The BPCC’s Trade Team made many new contacts with Polish food producers, and several BPCC members also were present to take advantage of the chance to meet new potential clients.