There are neither links nor unfairness, hardworking farmers receive subsidies

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The development of agriculture in the country remains top priority for the Macedonian government.

The funds allocated to subsidize farmers grow each year, farmers received Macedonian incentives to work, and Macedonia is getting more quality agricultural products. Not only we, but our neighbors and citizens of European countries also require more of Macedonian tomatoes, peppers, Macedonian wine, our tobacco etc.

In the interview with Kurir, Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Water Management, Konjanovski speaks for all government policies, and the strong effects, which we all feel.

– One of the main government priorities is the development of agriculture in the country and normally with it is associated the quality of life in rural areas. It cannot be separated. It is not a chance that some political opponents may have tried to offend us by calling us agri-village government, and then at one point even tried to imitate us. They went to villages and discussed with farmers, but quickly abandoned that course now again continue with insults about results from agriculture, agricultural reform, about the payment of subsidies. And we are just consistent with what we said from the first moment when we asked the support of farmers and citizens. We remain committed to farmers; remain to be the mainstay of farmers to develop policies that will ensure the development of agriculture in the country. We remain committed to the payment of subsidies, publicly declared through multi-year programs that the top priority of the Government in agriculture and farmers as we really see huge opportunity here.

When it became clear that the criticism is unfounded that the Macedonian government policies remain consistent and thoroughly committed to fulfilling the promises made to farmers. Konjanovski says, we announced revolution in agriculture even after the first session of the Government, and so we continue.

– Once again, I want to say the word that the Prime Minister, government, ministers, the Minister of Agriculture, and my personal word that we give to farmers that we fulfill. Just as promised on the first day of the first session when the Government announced revolution in terms of agriculture, we continue in that direction. In fact, this year we have already planned budget 140 million for development of agriculture, such as direct subsidies, and through the Rural Development Program, and the Program for Fisheries and Aquaculture. So 140 million thanks to prudent economic policies of the government, thanks to the persistence of the cabinet are flocking to farmers this year. Overall, VMRO – DPMNE policy is constant in terms of support to farmers and provision of funds in the budget. Last year, as promised in the budget we provided and marketed funds to farmers.

There are neither links, protections nor unfairness. Money ends up at the pockets of the honest, hardworking, and dedicated farmers.

– I responsibly claim that the subsidies end up at the pockets of hardworking farmers. We are not interested if any farmer belongs to one political party or the other, whether it is from one or the other religion. For us farmers are simply the biggest party of honest, farm hands who work, produce food, placed food, increase and improve the image of Macedonia as an agrarian country and so we treat all farmers the same way. Often you can hear in some debates in Parliament that we have favored farmers from one political party and did not provide subsidies for farmers from the other party. That we have very different policy for them. We have proper policy, equality policy, and uniform policy. Anyone who is worth, who reported production, no matter what its orientation receives merit funding, it is not gift, not respect, but I would say deserved addition that the Government awards farmers.

In 2006, tobacco farmers earned only 15 MKD subsidies. Year by year money grew, tobacco farmers remained happy. The policies of this government targeting tobacco farmers always cause certain security for their families.

– There are several dimensions. First I would try to answer from the position of Deputy Minister of Agriculture, and then you answer and the position of man. If we analyze the situation with tobacco, we will see that we have huge improvement from 2006, 2007 onwards. In 2006 we had only 15 MKD subsidies provided by the government for tobacco growers. As the time was passing by, every year we were increasing the subsidies and in 2009 we reached what we promised, 60 MKD subsidy per kilogram. This on the other hand created feeling of safety at farmers themselves. We adopted the Law on tobacco and somehow provide conditions many farmers to try to produce more and more tobacco. As the subsidies were being provided and tobacco production grew, too. If in 2005 we had production of 16,000 tonnes, already this year we are producing 32.8 million kilograms of quality Macedonian tobacco. Are tobacco farmers happy? Normally, when someone sells something they always want to sell expensive, the one that buys wants to buy cheap. In fact, this year we had small handicap because in the surrounding countries there was surplus of about 20 %. That was the case in Turkey. We had more tobacco of specie known as “Izmir”, had higher production of their respected variety of tobacco “Kathimerini”, increased quantity of tobacco and in some other countries such as Bulgaria, and had an 15 % greater production of tobacco in Macedonia. It will undoubtedly lead to reduction in purchase prices of tobacco. If last year we had an average purchase price of 182 MKD for tobacco, this year, up to this moment it is 154 MKD. Normally, each person when is making analysis would say “Well, well, I got less money than last year, and on the other hand, had more fruit.” I think that for the larger manufacture of tobacco farmers will get these funds and from that point of view I can say they maybe be less satisfied than last year, but on the other side of farming f is actory in outdoors. We adopted Law on tobacco, they have certainty on what we promised at one euro per kilo of tobacco, they will have confidence in the marketing of tobacco and we will has serious companies buying tobacco. Well, now, we will have higher price, one year we will have lower price. Do not forget that 2005, 2006 the purchase price was around 118 MKD, 2010 we had 191 MKD, 2011 we had declined to 136 MKD. So in 2012 and again in 2013 we had increased the purchase price of tobacco and this year have lower purchase price. So these are periods and no one can foresee them. But generally, I think that tobacco farmers are more satisfied than they were 7,8 or 9 years ago.

Wine lovers across the globe had the honor to taste the Macedonian wine. Macedonian grape has become symbol of quality, taste and price. In supermarkets throughout Europe at the shelves stand and are required Macedonian products.

We will talk about the Macedonian wine and grapes, but we will encompass other agricultural products as more and more of our agricultural products go to the famous European and world markets. In terms of wine, I have to say that the policies of the Government in the last five years have given effect much effect. Notably, the government support to farmers and to the sector was in several levels. First, the stability in terms of subsidies. Today, growers receive 40,000 MKD per one hectare planted agricultural area, vineyard maintenance. Second, when the government felt that at certain years we have lower purchase price of grapes, gave additional subsidies to growers i.e. 2 MKD per sold wine grapes to wineries. In parallel to this, it has not forgotten the industry, our wineries. Each year we send their representatives to the world, most famous wine fair alone to promote it, negotiate contracts and to place the Macedonian wine. The third measure that also cause growth in this sector is that the government is exercising popularly called the measure 50-50, which allows farmers to plant additional areas or to replace old with new vineyards. So if the planting has cost 2,000 euros, following year the government returns them 1,000. So many other such steps that the government envisioned today are the reasons for having excellent results in this sector. This year we had 30 % higher production, bigger purchase of wine grapes than last year. This year we had, looking at the statistics from last year, in 2013 we had about 40 % higher than the average production for the last 5 years, which is encouraging data. Not to say that in 2011 we had record exports of 1,150,000 hectoliters of wine. Even more encouraging is the fact that analyzing these data we see that the price of the wine that is achieved at the Macedonian wineries is every year higher. We do not sell Macedonian wine for 43, 44 euro cents as it was three years ago, but now we have an average price of bulk wine from over 55, 56 euro cents. I do not even want to mention the bottled export. We are pleased with the fact that numbers of wineries sell bottled wine and it brings in additional revenue for the state and the wineries themselves. And one fact I will tell you. The good measures of government caused in the next few years opening of new wineries, which is encouraging for the Republic of Macedonia. It is good signal for growers that there will be someone that will purchase their grapes and it is good indication that the Republic of Macedonia will be more present in European and world markets with quality wine. And fresh Macedonian products today are on shelves of Mercator, the Tesco and the other supermarkets in Europe and worldwide through export companies that perform well packaging and export of Macedonian products outside the Republic of Macedonia.

Konjanovski continues to work in the field. Personally from farmer listens their problems and together find solutions. He hears their questions and suggestions, they get answers and actions.

So many ideas are born through the contacts with farmers and processors. I consider as partner Macedonian Association of Manufacturers, the Macedonian Association of Processors wine farmers, famers from Kuklish up to Prespa that in several occasions have reacted and responded, and we by changing legislation or by passing new laws enabled to achieve even greater effect. There is a proverb saying that “Listen to the ones who suffer, not the one who foresee it”. If you do not hear anything from the farmers and if you do not apply it to our situation with good legal decision, there will be no effect. For example, the legalization of tractors. When we started the project 2 years ago, many people were skeptical about it, but today we have number of over 20,000 tractors legalized. We have adopted such law and many people took advantage of the opportunity, legalized the buildings, and obtained additional value for their farms. Let us say we have made many changes in the law at the request of farmers in the Law for the Protection of Animals, which is under the jurisdiction Agency for Food and Veterinary.

Macedonia has a successful agricultural story. How can we be example for other countries and do we a country where we can learn experience?

– One thing is important if we want to be present on all markets. To have to have good quality product, our overall legislation should be harmonized with the EU legislation. The laws that apply in Germany in terms of production and quality of food, in terms of plant health in France are applied in the Republic of Macedonia. It is guarantee that we will continue to conquer the European market. Next year we should adopt law on phyto-pharmaceutical products. We will hate to see how this is implemented in Portugal and in Spain, how to produce in Macedonia. We cooperate with ministries departments from surrounding countries, but also with other ministries from the European Union in order to perform the harmonization of our legislation, samples of good lessons learned, to apply, not to repeat the mistakes, to enable our farmers’ quality, healthy and safe products, which will be sold to European and world markets.

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