2018 Tian Shan travel: Part 47

Photo above by Aarón Blanco Tejedor on Unsplash, under Unsplash license.

2018 Tian Shan

August-September 2018 travel to Kazakhstan reviewed in 2021

Commentary from 2021

That post from 2nd of September 2018 was about apples. Yeah, the fruit. The city I was in, Almaty, derives its name from the fruit, and the fruit itself is said to originate from there. Yet, one of the largest producers of apples is my country. And local people knew it. That led to some conversations and thoughts.

Original blog post link:
Original post from 02.09.2018 is copied below.

A word about apples

Almaty city in Kazakhstan and the surrounding areas are the homeland of the apple tree. City name in Kazakh means “of apples”. Apple is a symbol of the city. There are still wild apple trees in the area.

And yet!

Kazakhs told me on many occasions: “the apple comes from Kazakhstan, and yet Kazakhs eat Polish apples, why?”

If Wikipedia statistics are correct, then Poland produces probably more than 3.6 million tonnes of apples each year, which is the highest amount in Europe, and while it pales to the Chinese production power of 44 million tonnes yearly. Kazakhstan borders China, and is far away from Poland, so why the Polish apples here in central Asia?

Poland produces vastly more apples than it can eat or sell to neighbours. It used to flood the Russian market, however, since 2014, the Russian Federation started an embargo on apples from Poland. Since then, rumour has it Poles have tried any possible method of exporting apples to Russia – including sales via Russia’s traditional allies such as Kazakhstan, Belarus and Serbia.

Of course, Polish apples are okay, but if you ship them several thousand kilometres away, they’re going to be less than stellar. I suppose the Chinese brands shipped via Ürümqi would be more fresh, if one dares eat food from countries outside the hysterical health standards of the European Union.

Kazakhs told me that the types of apple trees evolved in Poland are being imported back into Kazakhstan, if these rumours are to be believed (as I am no expert in all this), Polish apple trees yield bigger apples, more of them, and for a longer time (isn’t it just a matter of a much milder climate, though?), while still under the state-of-the-art quality standards of the EU, and with competition from the Union just waiting for farmers to make a mistake.

Where now?

Kazakhs should eat their own apples, too – I agree with that. It’s an important part of the culture and the homeland of the plant itself, so seeing the country flooded by foreign fruit leaves a sour aftertaste. Can it be changed in the near future?

Unlikely – in 2018 Polish apple industry had a “klęska urodzaju” again (play on words “klęska nieurodzaju” – disaster of bad harvest, whereas “klęska urodzaju”  means a disaster of great harvest), producing 20% more apples than the average from the last 3 years, and almost twice as much as in 2017, with prices being record low, and 0.5 million fruits speculated doomed to be thrown to trash due oversupply. Well, Kazakhs, get ready, we just had a historic record harvest.


Finally, as for my own opinion on all this: Спасибо, Казахстан, за яблонь! Thank you, Kazakhstan, for the apple tree!

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