The Norwegian company Norenco manufactures and packages hand sanitiser for the Scandinavian market at a factory it owns in Poland through its local joint venture Norenco Polska.
But at the end of last week, the exports were abruptly halted.
Arne Haukland, Norenco's chief executive, told The Local that after he applied for an export license, five men arrived at the factory, and demanded to be shown its stock of hand sanitiser.
“I did not expect that they would be so military — two of them even had guns in their pockets,” he said. “There was one guy from the tax office, one from the customs, and also from the security police.”
He said the company had then received a letter ordering it to sell any hand sanitiser it had produced to the local city authorities in Lubin at a fixed price, under emergency coronavirus laws passed in Poland at the start of March.
The seizure will exacerbate the supply problem faced by Norwegian hospitals, as Norenco Polska had planned to export two truckloads a week to Norway, with each containing 20,000 one litre bottles of hand sanitiser.
“No one is helping us,” he complained. “I've asked the Norwegian government to write a four-line letter, saying 'can we please have these goods from Norenco Polska?', but no one has written the letter.”
He said that Norenco had now shut down its Polish factory and had nothing in stock to sell to Polish hospitals.
“We cannot start production before we know that our trucks can get through the border,” he said. “We only produce what's on order. We don't produce for stock.”
“When we have an order, we order alcohol in very big quantities and then we put it in a special machine and we make it very quickly. We can make 20,000 litres in a day.”
Haukland said that his factory had been supplying Polish hospitals throughout the crisis.
“We have delivered 120,000 litres to the Polish market — for pharmacies and hospitals — and I think it is fair that it is Norway's turn to get the goods,” he said.
Dag Sørlie Lund from the law firm Hjort told NRK that the Polish government was probably breaking EEA rules by seizing the product, although he acknowledged that countries are permitted to institute export bans on public health grounds.