Development of agriculture affected by people’s mentality

The Republic of Moldova reached the 22nd year of independence. The IPN Agency decided to present the accomplishments and failures in the country’s development in a number of articles. Representatives of the current government, experts, former and current politicians stated their view on the steps taken by Moldova after August 27, 1991.

Article No. 2 of the IPN series “Moldova-22. Steps forward and steps backward”, on the occasion of the Independence Day

The development of Moldovan agriculture was affected by the people’s mentality that changed in the Soviet period, when the kolkhoz workers didn’t bear responsibility and the people used to steal crops from fields. The reform in agriculture is several years late, while the agricultural machinery was changed with difficulty in Moldova. This led to the accumulation of debts and the poor cultivation of land.

Minister of Agriculture and Food Industry Vasile Bumacov said that Moldova’s agriculture in the Soviet period suffered dramatic changes. “In order to understand what happens in agriculture, without knowing this history is impossible. After World War II, the farmers were taken to Siberia. They were deprived of everything. A new system was launched, but it collapsed at the beginning of the 1980s,” said the official.

According to Vasile Bumacov, the radical changes are painful and require time. Reforms have been implemented and the legal basis was changed, but the people’s mentality cannot be changed. “No steps towards agricultural development were taken. The people were apportioned land. But this generated greater problems as the people weren’t prepared and didn’t have the spirit of farmers. Until 1970s, there were people who knew how to cultivate the land, but they disappeared. There appeared kolkhoz workers who mainly didn’t have responsibilities. They stole a lot and the people weren’t paid,” said the minister.

Return to normality

The official said the first step towards returning to normality was the acknowledgement of the fact that agriculture can be flourishing only on a private basis. The farmers cannot exist without land. “But the apportionment of land was a step backward. The people wanted to plant vineyards and orchards on one hectare of land. Everyone understood that it would be a disaster, but had the right to seek land, while the state didn’t have the power to dictate how exactly it had to be distributed,” said the minister.

A great step backward, according to Vasile Bumacov, was the stopping of the importation of equipment. “Earlier, the country was mechanized and they tried all kinds of new technology. But from 1991 until 2000 there was a rupture. They did reforms, but forgot about the technical component. In 2000 all the equipment was worn-out. It was a shortcoming. We relaunched the modernization process owing to the Japanese and U.S. and EU programs. We managed to replace the old equipment,” said the minister. The equipment used now is less than 8 years old, while 40% of it is new.

Farmers cannot promote themselves

According to Vasile Bumacov, the agricultural market was liberalized and the borders were opened. But this positive step is shadowed by the mentality problem. The official said that they didn’t have to advertise the products during the Soviet period, while the market absorbed everything that was Moldovan, without great effort. In this process of modernizing agriculture, the promotion abilities disappeared. The farmers considered that if they have Moldovan products, they will stay in the office and the buyers will come to them to ask them to sell something.

Today they should cope with competition and convince the buyers that your product is the best. “They don’t sell the products in boxes now. We need packing, cooling, storage facilities and national brand. We must take part in exhibitions and presentations. In our country we cannot substitute imports. Even if the imported products are of a poorer quality, they are packed nicer and the people buy with the eyes,” said the minister.

He also said that in Moldova there appeared the generation of farmers that already separated themselves from the Soviet lie and are no longer afraid of paper and pencil. “We have young people who studied and worked abroad and came home to become landowners. We hope that these young people start agribusinesses without Soviet mentality and influence. There appear more women who are interested in agribusinesses,” stated the minister. According to him, Moldovan agriculture is now in full swing. The agriculture of 1991 didn’t have a future. It was to collapse sooner or later.

Four stages in the development of agriculture

The chairman of the National Federation of Employers in Agriculture and Food Industry Alexandru Slusari said that from his viewpoint there are four stages in the development of agriculture in Moldova. The first stage was in 1991-1994, when there were put the basis of the legislation on land and approved the Land Code, which provides that the farmland should be allotted to peasants. “Among the negative moments was the fact that there were no clear views how the land should be distributed. The systemic approach was missing. As a result, a part of the people wanted to remain in kolkhozes, while another part started to tear land away. A number of political militants traveled through villages and proposed the people to take as much land as possible, without telling them how to do it. Until 1994, there were destroyed all the farmsteads. The land was parceled out chaotically and the equipment was damaged,” said Aexandru Slusari.

The chaotic period was changed by false stability that lasted until 1999. “The agrarians came to power. They knew that the destruction and chaos were to be stopped. The situation stabilized, but those from the power proposed no systemic approach as to what to do next. Moldova switched to market economy in the other sectors, but agriculture remained behind the times,” stated Alexandru Slusari.

Enormous debts were collected in the period. In 1998-1999, practically every association preserved had large debts, while the land remained uncultivated. The reform in agriculture is 7-8 late. In 1999, it was clear that nothing can be developed without reforms. If the reform had been implemented in 1991, the situation in agriculture would have been better. In 1998-2000, they implemented the agrarian reform and they switched to private agriculture.

Mistakes and successes

Alexandru Slusari said the Land Program had two faults – it started to be implemented late and the problem of patrimony of the former associations wasn’t solved. “We sill encounter problems as regards the land share. But the framers received the land and the cadastral basis was created. In this respect we are ahead of other post-Soviet countries. Any farmer has land that can be sold, but in industry they cannot sell the property as they received the patrimonial bonds, but don’t know where their share is. Some of the enterprises went bankrupt,” he stated.

After 2002, there was developed private agriculture. Alexandru Slusari said that the most serious problem now is the lack of appropriate attitude on the part of the government to farmers. Slightly over 2% is allocated for agriculture from the state budget.  “As the Government banks more on the import of agrifood products, these can lead to the disappearance of a number of branches of agriculture. 97% of the land is privately owned. The subsidies for agriculture are the lowest in the EU. This does not create preconditions for developing agriculture,” said Alexandru Slusari.

Animal breeding can disappear as it is now not competitive with the current customs duties. The producers of fruit and vegetables face the same risk. The national apples can no longer compete with the Polish ones. The mentality should also be changed. According to Alexandru Slusari, 20% of the farmers develop subsistence agriculture. If the state does not realize the importance of this sector, its fate will be sad over the next 5-7 years.

Mariana Galben, IPN
ugust, 2013

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