WARSAW Aug 1 With tongue-in-cheek messages like
"an apple a day keeps Putin away!" Poles have taken to social
media with gusto to promote Polish fruit in defiance of
President Vladimir Putin's decision to ban imports into Russia.
Using the hashtag #jedzjablka (#eatapples), Poles, including
prominent politicians, tweeted pictures of themselves eating
apples or drinking cider, including outside the Polish foreign
ministry and the Russian embassy in Warsaw.
On Facebook too, a campaign named Jedz Jablka na Zlosc
Putinowi" (Eat apples to annoy Putin) got underway, earning more
than 20,000 likes in a matter of hours.
One picture trending on Twitter of Putin with Russian Prime
Minister Dmitry Medvedev carried the caption "Now, to really
annoy the Poles, let's buy up all their apples".
Another showed a modified version of the famous World War
One recruitment poster with Britain's Lord Kitchener, finger
outstretched, beside a superimposed picture of a rosy red apple
and the words: "Have you eaten today? Your country needs you."
Moscow announced its ban on most fruit and vegetable imports
from Poland on Wednesday following the European Union's decision
to impose sanctions targeting Russia's banking, oil and defence
sectors because of the Kremlin's actions in Ukraine.
Poland is the world's largest exporter of apples with more
than two-thirds of them going to Russia. The statistics office
put the value of Poland's apple exports to Russia last year at
273 million euros ($366 million).
"STAND UP TO PUTIN!"
Despite the blow to its large and politically important farm
sector, Poland has been a firm supporter of the sanctions
against Russia, its communist-era overlord, and the support has
not only come from social media channels.
The business daily "Puls Biznesu" published an editorial on
Friday entitled "Stand up to Putin: eat apples, drink cider".
In a central Warsaw market on Friday, one fruit seller had
erected a sign "Eat Polish apples!"
In an interview for the broadcaster TVN24, Interior Minister
Bartlomiej Sienkiewicz said he "would rather Poland paid in
apples than in blood" for the Ukrainian crisis.
Poland, which shares a border with Ukraine and has strongly
supported Kiev's efforts to move closer to the European Union,
has said boosting domestic consumption of apples could help
cushion the pain of reduced earnings from Russia.
Eating just one apple a day would provide a significant
relief for Polish producers, Miroslaw Maliszewski, head of the
Polish Fruitgrowers' Association, told a news conference on
Thursday. Data showed the average Pole ate 13.5 kg of apples in
2013, down from 23 kg a decade earlier.
Maliszewski said he would press for a lifting of
restrictions on low-volume alcohol advertising in an attempt to
further boost cider sales, which have been growing steadily
since the implementation of a tax cut last year.
Poland's farm minister Marek Sawicki was due to hold talks
on Friday with the European Commissioner for Agriculture Dacian
Ciolos on possible financial compensation for Polish producers
hit by the Russian ban.
In an interview with the daily Rzeczpospolita on Friday,
Polish Deputy Prime Minister Janusz Piechocinski estimated that
fallout from tit-for-tat sanctions between the EU and Russia
would shave 0.6 percentage points off Poland's economic growth
($1 = 0.7457 Euros)
(Reporting By Wiktor Szary; Editing by Gareth Jones)