Agriculture is mostly privately run and was so even during the Communist years. It accounts for 5% of the gross domestic product and occupies more than 15% of the workforce. Poland is generally self-sufficient in food; the main crops are potatoes, sugar beets, rye, wheat, and dairy products. Pigs and sheep are the main livestock. Poland is relatively rich in natural resources; the chief minerals produced are coal, sulfur, copper, silver, lead, and zinc, and there also is shale gas. There is food and beverage processing, shipbuilding, and the manufacture of automobiles, machinery, iron and steel products, chemicals, glass, appliances, and textiles. The country is also a center for companies outsourcing work.
Industry, which had been state controlled, began to be privatized in the early 1990s, although restructuring and privatization of the country's coal and other energy industries and the railroads has moved forward slowly, when it has progressed at all. Prices were freed, subsidies were reduced, and Poland's currency (the zloty) was made convertible as the country began the difficult transition to a free-market economy. Reforms initially resulted in high unemployment, hyperinflation, shortages of consumer goods, a large external debt, and a general drop in the standard of living. The situation later stabilized, however, and during the 1990s Poland's economy was the fastest growing in E Europe. Growth slowed significantly in 2001, and by 2006 Poland had the highest unemployment rate in the European Union. Growth subsequently increased, and Poland weathered the worldwide recession that began in 2008 much better than most other European Union nations. Poland exports machinery and transportation equipment, manufactured goods, food, and live animals. Imports include machinery and transportation equipment, manufactured goods, chemicals, minerals, and fuels. Germany, Russia, Italy, France, and the Netherlands are important trading partners.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.