|14 GMO Free Localities Designated
HotNews, March 28, 2007Ecologists’ second strike secured a victory for the future of Romania’s agriculture: 14 villages in the Cluj County (the Huedin region) followed the example of their Bihor County neighbors and declared this region as free from any genetically modified organisms.
The localities include the small town of Huedin and 13 villages, while the Bihor GMO-free zone includes two towns and 24 villages.
Local authorities say the reason for the move was part of their rural development strategy, agriculture-tourism and environmental protection.
Mayors demand the Government some regulation in this field, so that local autonomy may allow administration institution to forbid GMO cultures on their lands, as well as legal protection for farmers who refuse to grow GMOs.
Europe has 174 GMO free regions and 4,500 areas this far.
According to the Agriculture Ministry , Romania has been the largest GMO producer in Europe for the past 2 years.
Organic Farming – A Romanian Opportunity
Romania may take advantage of the fact that it has optimum organic farming conditions to gain a leading position in the European market. Experts say that, in the context of globalisation and of the European accession, our country should move to capitalise on its natural resources as a competitive edge in agriculture, as part of its economic development strategy. “In Romania we have the advantage that we can define ecological, unpolluted perimeters where to apply practices of ecological farming. Further more, the Romanian traditional farming is based on clean technologies, thus benefiting from fertile and productive soil on large farmland areas,” director with the Agriculture Ministry Teodora Aldescu told “Cotidianul” daily.
After 15 years of transition, the Romanian agriculture has low productivity rates and stands slim chances to make it in the common market. However, one solution would be to certify parcels as large as possible as ecological areas.
In high-income countries, there is increasing demand for organic products. “At a European level, the organic product market is on an evident upward trend, particularly as many governments encourage consumption of such products. Romania stands good changes to claim an important position in this segment, if it manages to increase its yield. Especially since no European country can claim supremacy in the organic farming sector. Our ecological products have already entered the German or British markets, they only need to consolidate their position,” says Valeriu Steriu, head of the Romanian Milk Association. In Romania, over 7,000 tonnes of organic vegetables are produced on a total 500-ha area.
Ecological farming areas may reach 170,000 ha this year
Areas under organic crop may increase this year to some 170,000 ha, as opposed to 110,000 ha last year, when much of the vegetable yield was exported as raw material to EU member states, director with the Agriculture Ministry Daniel Lica pointed out yesterday in the second edition of Profinn.
“Traditional and organic products provide Romania with an opportunity to enter foreign markets,” Lica said. He added that the main foreign destinations in 2005 were Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Italy. Most of the exports were accounted for by honey 60 per cent, vegetable products, raw materials in particular 30 per cent and processed dairy products 20 per cent.
Lica also pointed out that the Agriculture Ministry had so far released 555 certificates for traditional products, which may be an opportunity for some Romanian producers to survive in the market after accession.
According to Ministry statistics, areas under organic crops almost doubled last year as compared to 2003, when the total area was 57,200 ha.
As for the live stocks, they exceeded 10,000 bovines, 40,200 milk sheep and approx. 5,000 chicken. There are approx. 260 farms involved in organic farming, with the output used primarily as a raw material, especially in foreign markets, rather than processed, due to the lack of processing units.
At present the main regions where ecological farming is practised are the northern and eastern parts of the country, particularly counties Arad, Timis, Calarasi, Braila, Galati and Constanta.
Investments in organic farming are generally higher than the average ones in classical agriculture, but profits are also twice as high. After the EU accession some of the current farming subsidy forms will be eliminated. However, organic farming will benefit from substantial amounts. According to expert estimates, Romania may introduce approx. two million ha in the ecological farming system.
SAPARD contracting rate must be improved
The pace of SAPARD fund contracting must be improved in order for Romania to be able to fully absorb the amounts allotted by the EU, given that for the time being there seems to be little chance to have deadlines extended, Mihail Dumitru, representative of the EC Delegation in Romania stated yesterday.
“There are financing resources which are rather slow to absorb. The application submission rate has been quite high lately, but the contracting rate is slower,” Dumitru pointed out in the second edition of Profinn, a national fair of funding projects and business ideas for the agrifood sector.