Transitioning to Organic Farming in the Republic of Moldova: Perceptions and Prospects

By Ghedrovici, Olesea; Ostapenko, Nick | Current Politics and Economics of Russia, Eastern and Central Europe, September 1, 2016 | Go to article overview

Transitioning to Organic Farming in the Republic of Moldova: Perceptions and Prospects


Ghedrovici, Olesea, Ostapenko, Nick, Current Politics and Economics of Russia, Eastern and Central Europe


Introduction

Organic farming began to expand in the mid-1980s, primarily in Western Europe and the United States. In the United States, organic production has been practiced for around one hundred years. For example, the U.S. Department of Agriculture prepared the first report on sale prices of "green strawberries" as early as 1915. By the mid-1980s, the amount of affordable natural agricultural products had grown significantly as new mineral fertilizers became commercially available. Government regulators began to encourage organic farming after assessing the needs of organic food market and concerns about environmental impact. A real organic boom ensued in the early 1990s.

In Moldova, a small country located on the eastern border of the EU and currently one of the poorest countries in the region, agriculture has always been a traditional pursuit. It contributes significantly to the country's economy-as much as 40% of GDP-and represents the main source of income for a part of Moldova's population. However, average productivity in the sector is two to three times lower in Moldova than in Western Europe. The stability of the sector is periodically disturbed by geopolitical problems and by relations with the traditional principal consumers of Moldovan agricultural products: Russians and, beginning at a later stage, Ukrainians, Belarusians, and Romanians. The provisional membership of Moldova in the EU association agreement has already brought some changes to agribusiness. Exports in the main categories of agricultural products have increased and now account for 70% of total export revenue. Organic farming has become a new and especially promising field of economic activity. But serious structural changes in farming are still needed to maintain and promote sustainable growth.

Organic Farming in Moldova Today: Advantages and Threats

For the Republic of Moldova, organic farming is a relatively new direction in agriculture. In 2000, the government adopted a national concept of organic farming, promoting the production and marketing of genetically unmodified food. In 2001 the first certified organic farm was created, with a total area of 168 hectares.

In Moldova, according to 2014 statistics, around 59 thousand hectares were designated for organic farming, including 29 thousand hectares for later transition. Eighty thousand tons of organic agricultural products were exported to Germany, Belgium, Italy, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, and Denmark.

By January 1, 2015, 65 farm operators were employed, and 23 enterprises were added to this number during the year. In 2014 EU agricultural inspectors visited Moldova twice to assess the development of organic farming and its results. On the basis of their reports, Moldova gained recognition as one of the European countries in transition to the implementation and development of an organic farming system.

What Does Moldova Grow Organically?

Organically grown agricultural products, including cereals, oilseeds, dried pulses, herbs, honey, fruits, berries, and nuts are well suited for export to the EU countries. Among the organic grains grown in Moldova are wheat, durum wheat, and spelt, which are exported mainly to Slovakia, the Czech Republic, and Poland. When autumn fairs were held in central Chisinau, around 20 tons of organic quince-tastier and 1.5 times cheaper than the product available at a regular fresh market-were sold at the organic food fair BioFest-2015. One entrepreneur, who farms 24 hectares of land, estimates that a price of 10 lei per kg (less than 1 USD) is sufficient to cover costs and make a profit of 25 to 30% for a farm. Moldova also has about 3 thousand hectares of walnut farms, and the nuts are exported primarily to Germany. Fruit orchards (cherry, apricot, and quince) occupy 360 hectares. Potatoes and berries have just begun to be grown organically, mainly for local kindergarten and school consumption.

Three local businesses cultivate herbs, and each exports at least 2 tons of aromatic oils annually. …

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