INTRODUCTION: The leader of the Solidarity free trade union in Poland, Lech Walesa, has called for food aid from the West.
ZERAN, BLONIE, WARSAW, POLAND (VISNEWS - STEFAN DMOCHOWSKI)
GV Coal trucks arriving atpower station (2 shots)
GV Trucks beingunloaded (2 shots)
GV TILT UP Chimneys ofpower station
SV PAN EXT Slaughter hose withpigs ready for unloading (2 shots)
GV & SVCarts being loaded with coal as alternative transport (3 shots)
GV PAN Long lines of queueing private cars wanting petrol
GV & SV Trucks waiting at base in Warsaw (3shots)
GV PAN Russian lorries travelling onroad (3 shots)
GV PAN Women and children inline for food (5 shots)
Background: INTRODUCTION: The leader of the Solidarity free trade union in Poland, Lech Walesa, has called for food aid from the West. Without it, he said, Poles would face a cold and hungry winter. His remarks underlined the continuing crisis in Poland, and the fear that, bad as it is now, it could easily get still worse.
SYNOPSIS: In Poland, both imports and exports are falling. And so is production.
This coal-fired power station provides heat for one third of Warsaw. At present it has two weeks' supply of coal, and supplies arrive regularly from Silesia.
But, with total coal production in Poland down by nine per cent, compared to last year, many people are worried about long term supplies. Elsewhere, in Poland, electricity generation has already fallen. Supplies during October were eight per cent lower than for the same period last year, and fears of a long cold winter have already been expressed.
A critical food shortage now faces poland. Everywhere, there are long queues for scarce supplies. The meat ration, though highly restricted, is still sometimes too great for the actual quantity of meat available.
Fuel supplies present almost as great a problem. Alternative forms of transport are being increasingly used by Poles who either can't get, or can't afford, petrol. On Wednesday, the Government raise the price of petrol by 50 per cent to halt panic buying and reduce hoarding. Now, high grade petrol costs 32 zloty (91 US cents) a litre - putting the price among Europe's highest.
Even so, there are plenty of motorists willing to pay that price. These days, the queues start before dawn, and petrol stations often run dry of supplies.
Poland's ability to pay for imported oil is worsening. Exports to the West in the first ten months of 1981 fell by 24 per cent, (1.4 billion dollars) compared to the same period last year. Imports from the West also fell, as hard currency supplies dried up. But while that lessened the impact on the overall balance of payments if also contributed to the almost universal shortages.
To cope with the food crisis, a massive operation of food distribution is underway. Russian trucks ply the international roadways of Eastern Europe, reflecting the sole growth area of the Polish economy - trade with other Comecon countries. Other food is distributed by Poland's own International Transports Enterprise, which travels throughout Europe and the Middle East. Its 1000 trucks - mainly Volvo Renault and Fiat - have so far escaped Poland's scourge: shortages of spare parts.
Even so, there are widespread fears that it is too little and too late. When Mr.
Walesa made his speech, he addressed it not to the Polish authorities, but to the West. The coming winter heralds a dangerous situation in the country, he said. Food supplies are insufficient. He added the problem could become a source of dangerous social tension. At present, Poland is quiet, the food queues docile. But, warned Mr. Walesa, that may not last.
InitialsPM Script is copyright Reuters Limited. All rights reserved