In the Programme for European Development of Bulgaria the government has set agricultural development as a basis for economic growth. The first strategic objective of the Programme is to make agriculture an attractive industry and to guarantee a high standard of living for people working in the sector by stabilising and increasing their incomes.
Investing in Bulgarian Agriculture
The Programme for European Development of Bulgaria has set agricultural development as a basis for economic growth. The first strategic objective of the Programme is to make agriculture an attractive industry and to guarantee a high standard of living for people working in the sector by stabilising and increasing their incomes. The priorities of the Bulgarian government regarding agriculture follow the priorities of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and we strictly adhere to the two pillars of the CAP. A Food Safety Agency is being established to guarantee the safety and increase the quality of food and a legislative base is being created to allow producers to supply directly to consumers thus enhancing market opportunities. Bulgaria is in the middle of the first programming period of the Rural Development Programme (2007–2013) and expectations of the programme are high. It has the largest budget in Bulgaria and the fund absorption rate of about 20 per cent is the highest in the country. Bulgarian government priorities are consistently focused on the goal of increasing the competitiveness of Bulgarian agriculture through technical and technological modernization of the sector and on the sustainable development and stabilization of rural areas under the conditions of EU membership.
Le Programme pour le développement européen de la Bulgarie a placé le développement agricole à la base de la croissance économique. Le premier objectif stratégique du programme est de rendre attractive l’activité agricole et de garantir aux personnes travaillant dans le secteur un niveau de vie élevé en stabilisant et en augmentant leurs revenus. Les priorités du gouvernement bulgare concernant l’agriculture suivent les priorités de la Politique Agricole Commune (PAC) et il adhère strictement aux deux piliers de la PAC. Une agence de sécurité sanitaire des aliments a étéétablie pour garantir l’innocuité et améliorer la qualité des aliments et une base légale a été créée pour permettre aux producteurs de fournir directement les consommateurs, ce qui renforce les opportunités sur le marché. La Bulgarie se trouve à mi-chemin de la première période de programmation du Programme pour le Développement Rural (2007–2013) et les attentes sont grandes. Ce programme dispose du budget le plus élevé de la Bulgarie et le taux d’utilisation des fonds –à environ 20 pour cent – est le plus fort du pays. Les priorités du gouvernement bulgare restent centrées sur l’objectif d’accroissement de la compétitivité de l’agriculture bulgare grâce à la modernisation technique et technologique du secteur, ainsi que du développement durable et de la stabilisation des zones rurales aux conditions de l’adhésion à l’UE.
Das Programm zur europäischen Entwicklung Bulgariens definiert landwirtschaftliche Entwicklung als Ausgangsbasis für Wirtschaftswachstum. Das oberste strategische Ziel des Programms besteht darin, die Landwirtschaft attraktiver zu gestalten und der in diesem Bereich tätigen Bevölkerung einen hohen Lebensstandard durch stabile sowie steigende Einkommen zu garantieren. Die Prioritäten, welche die bulgarische Regierung im Hinblick auf die Landwirtschaft gesetzt hat, orientieren sich an jenen der Gemeinsamen Agrarpolitik (GAP), und wir halten uns strikt an die zwei Säulen der GAP. Derzeit wird eine Behörde für Lebensmittelsicherheit eingerichtet, um die Sicherheit der Lebensmittel zu garantieren und deren Qualität zu erhöhen. Momentan wird ebenfalls daran gearbeitet, eine gesetzliche Grundlage für die Landwirte zu schaffen, um die Direktvermarktung an die Endverbraucher zu ermöglichen, um so die Absatzmöglichkeiten zu verbessern. Bulgarien befindet sich inmitten der ersten Programmierungsphase des Programms zur Entwicklung des ländlichen Raums (2007–2013), und die an das Programm gerichteten Erwartungen sind hoch: Es handelt sich um das Programm mit dem höchsten Budget in Bulgarien, und die Absorptionsrate der Fonds mit etwa 20 Prozent ist die höchste des Landes. Das Hauptaugenmerk der bulgarischen Regierung ist konsequent darauf gerichtet, die Wettbewerbsfähigkeit der bulgarischen Landwirtschaft durch technische Modernisierung der Branche zu erhöhen sowie die nachhaltige Entwicklung und Stärkung ländlicher Gebiete unter den Bedingungen der EU-Mitgliedschaft zu fördern.
Agricultural development is central for sustained economic growth
The priorities of the Bulgarian government regarding agriculture follow the priorities of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). In this context, we strictly adhere to the two pillars of the CAP. The first – direct payments – defines the framework of support to farmers. Bulgarian farmers thus have begun to think on a different scale and can compare themselves with their European counterparts. This pillar also defines our sector policies focused on grain and livestock. In this respect, during its first year in office the new Government increased farm support. Despite the economic crisis, by mid-May 2010 Bulgaria managed to disburse 100 per cent of the EU subsidies and the complementary national direct payments for agriculture. Thus, Bulgarian farmers received transfers greater than €420 million, which helped the development of the sector.
Simultaneously, priorities associated with the second pillar of the CAP – rural development – are being developed. Apart from these two priorities, the Ministry of Agriculture and Food (MAF) has committed to implementing the Common Fisheries Policy, as well as food safety regulations. We also have programmes for development of the forestry and viticulture sectors. Thanks to the pre-accession period, Bulgarian farmers significantly modernized their technology base and now Bulgarian agriculture enjoys excellent technical assets. Meanwhile, there are ongoing administrative reforms to facilitate the process of land consolidation.
Food quality and safety
Another priority of the government is the implementation of the EU policy on food quality and safety. Bulgaria has started establishing a Food Safety Agency, with main objectives not only to guarantee the safety, but also to increase the quality, of food. The Bulgarian Food Safety Agency will monitor the compliance with EU and Bulgarian legislation throughout the food chain – primary food products, feed, plants, animals, animal sub-products not intended for human consumption, veterinary preparations, plant protection products, fertilizers, genetically modified organisms and food. Control is based on risk assessment to ensure a high level of protection of public, animal and plant health, as well as animal welfare. The Food Safety Agency will help remove the existing double registration, duplication of control activities and reduce the administrative burden on business operators.
Creating a single competent authority on food quality and safety will increase Bulgarian business confidence. With the establishment of the Agency, the level of administration, the number of laboratories and analyses will be optimized and will reduce the financial burden on the state budget. This corresponds to another government priority – the creation of a European type administration in agriculture, providing high quality administrative services.
A shorter food chain
European legislation on food safety allows the competent authorities in the EU member states to establish national rules regulating the direct sales of small quantities of raw materials and processed food of animal origin to the final consumers. One of the ways to provide better opportunities for producers of animal products is to create a legislative base allowing them to supply their products directly to the consumers, ensuring a better return on farmers’ labour. In this area a priority is the enactment of an Ordinance concerning the specific requirements for direct sale or supply of small quantities of raw materials and food of animal origin.
Direct sales of agricultural products and foodstuffs are in the best interests not only of producers but also consumers. Direct selling offers a wider choice of regional food products with specific quality and organoleptic characteristics and gives assurance to consumers of the authenticity of regional products. Moreover, consumers will have access to processed food at more affordable prices that correspond to the income level in the respective region. The supply of raw materials and food in accordance with detailed and controlled rules is a guarantee of their safety and of compliance with the requirements set in European hygiene legislation. The rules of the Ordinance should guarantee consumers that producers, whom they trust, deliver foods fulfilling these hygiene standards.
In fulfillment of the key priority to increase the quality of food, the Ministry of Agriculture and Food revised the Bulgarian state standards for the famous ‘Bulgarian yogurt’, ‘Bulgarian white brine cheese’ and ‘Bulgarian yellow cheese’. With the introduction of the revised non-mandatory state standards, producers and consumers will have a choice to produce or purchase according to these standards or to market products based on different technical specifications. However, the state standards reflect the best practice in the production of Bulgarian cheese and yogurt. The updated standards have been notified to the European Committee for Standardization.
Rural Development Programme
Bulgaria is in the middle of the first programming period of the Rural Development Programme (2007–2013). The programme, which inherited the pre-accession program SAPARD, aims to: enhance the competitiveness of agriculture, forestry and processing industries; contribute to local administrative capacity building; help diversify the economy and improve quality of life in rural areas; and ensure conservation of biodiversity and water resources.
“Le gouvernement a placé le développement agricole à la base de la croissance économique.”
The expectations concerning the Rural Development Programme are very high. This programme has the largest budget in Bulgaria –€3.279 billion (EU –€2.642 billion; national co-financing –€637 million). The programme provides opportunities for financing of municipalities, businesses and people in rural areas where problems of unemployment and living conditions are very serious.
When the newly appointed leadership of the Ministry of Agriculture and Food came to power they inherited significant problems with EU funds absorption. A large number of unprocessed project applications had accumulated in the State Fund Agriculture – the Bulgarian Payment Agency – specifically under the Rural Development Programme. A number of measures were taken to optimize the process of funds absorption under the Rural Development Programme – including deferral of new project acceptances in order to allow the already selected ones to be funded, increasing the capacity of the Payment Agency, amendments to regulations of the key measures etc. At present, we can declare that the Rural Development Programme has the highest fund absorption rate – about 20 per cent – in the country, compared with an average of 3–4 per cent under other programmes.
Under the Rural Development Programme investment proposals are accepted for all measures except Measure 112 ‘Setting up of young farmers’, and Measure 121 ‘Modernisation of agricultural holdings’, particularly the section concerning the purchase of new farming equipment. The reason is that the budget for these two measures is fully utilised and there are no additional funds until the end of the programming period. This is one of the serious problems in the implementation of the Rural Development Programme 2007–2013. There are proposals to transfer funds from less popular measures towards these two measures in which there is keen interest from beneficiaries. Transfer of funds was discussed with the European Commission and changes in budgetary allocations are imminent.
Bulgarian governmentpriorities are consistently focused on the goal of increasing the competitiveness of Bulgarian agricultural products under the conditions of EU membership. The policy of the Ministry of Agriculture and Food (MAF) is designed to modernise and completely restructure farming in order to maximize the opportunities for farmers, including the implementation of schemes for specific targeted support. To guarantee safe production of raw milk and dairy products, MAF has taken measures to ensure full traceability of raw dairy materials and strict control over farm activities. In view of the economic environment and the characteristics of dairy farming, state aid was allocated within a temporary community framework and the Government decided to give priority assistance to dairy farmers with financial difficulties. In order to restructure and increase the competitiveness of dairy farming, a guaranteed budget was allocated from the Rural Development Programme (2007–2013 years). Bulgaria has already deposited documents on the subject with the European Commission.
“Die Regierung definiert landwirtschaftliche Entwicklung als Ausgangsbasis für Wirtschaftswachstum.”
In addition to the Rural Development Programme, Bulgarian farmers will receive funding through the European Economic Recovery Plan (EERP), amounting to €36.83 million. This will be used to fund some of the EU priority activities, part of the so-called ‘new challenges’. The funding is targeted at three priority areas. First, projects related to water management: for water conservation technologies such as irrigation systems; water storage, including spillways; systems for wastewater treatment on farms and processing plants; construction, reconstruction and rehabilitation of water supply systems and facilities. Second, for projects related to renewable energy sources: equipment for production of renewable energy; equipment for production of bio-energy from biomass; establishment of areas under perennial energy crops; establishment of installations and infrastructure for renewable energy from biomass and other renewable energy sources (solar, wind and geothermal energy). Third, for restructuring the dairy sector, particularly for investments to increase competitiveness of the sector.
Regarding the forest sector, Bulgaria is among the EU countries with the greatest biodiversity. Sustainable and competitive development of the forestry sector in accordance with the principles of multifunctional development of forests is also one of our main policies. At the same time measures to support adaptation of the Bulgarian forests to global climate changes are being taken. In fulfillment of these goals the government relies not only on creating favorable conditions for large investors but also on helping small and medium enterprises that provide income outside farming.
Common Market Organisations
The government is generally seeking to extend implementation of the market mechanisms of the Common Market Organisations for agricultural products to create competitive and economically sustainable farms, and to ensure a stable and predictable environment for investors in the agricultural sector. This will be achieved through:
- • Full implementation of the EU marketing standards for the quality of crop and livestock products;
- • Harmonizing and adjusting the means of control in accordance with the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy;
- • Implementation of the new information system for the management of the Common Agricultural Policy – the Information System for Agricultural Market Management and Monitoring (ISAMM) covering business processes;
- • Creating sustainable markets for agricultural products through consistent implementation of EU policy for stability in administration and prevention of disruptions in the markets for agricultural products;
- • Ensuring sustainable operation and flexibility in the agro-statistics system and the Farm Accountancy Data Network (FADN) to ensure objective, consistent and comparable information on the development of the sector;
- • Providing adequate and timely information to farmers about the state of agricultural markets;
- • Enhancing and improving the quality of analytical work, preparation of strategic analyses and economic evaluations of policies in agriculture necessary for decision making both at the national and business levels;
- • Stimulation of improvements in infrastructure for grain storage and trading to guarantee optimal conservation of stored grain and conditions for competitive trade; and
- • Creating an optimal business environment by reducing and alleviating the regulatory burden in agriculture.
Necessary steps to achieve a competitive and sustainable agricultural sector in Bulgaria
- 1 Provision of EU and national funding for the revival of Bulgarian agriculture;
- 2 Use of the recourse of state aid as a tool for solving problems and priority directions in agricultural policy;
- 3 Flexibility in designing policies in agriculture, reflecting the directions of the reform of the CAP and ongoing global issues such as accelerating climate change;
- 4 Extension of the application of market mechanisms of the Common Market Organization for agricultural products in the EU to create competitive and economically sustainable farms;
- 5 Achieving sustainable development of agricultural product markets through consistent implementation of EU policy to ensure stable administration and prevention of disruptions on the agricultural markets;
- 6 Creating an optimal business environment by reducing and alleviating the regulatory burden in agriculture;
- 7 Creating conditions to support the development of small and medium-sized producers, improving the process of diversification and vertical cooperation in the food chain, and through direct supply to the end consumer;
- 8 Priority implementation and realization of the scheduled tasks and activities of the National Plan for Development of Organic Agriculture in Bulgaria 2007–2013.
- 9 Encouraging farmers to benefit from the opportunities for support in the field of agri-environment, as well as the compensatory payments under Natura 2000.
“The government has set agricultural development as a basis for economic growth.”
Despite the global financial crisis Bulgarian agriculture remains an attractive business, creating competitive products. At the same time our country ensures the protection of natural resources, cultural traditions and customs, rural development and the preservation of the unique taste of Bulgarian products. In the next years technical and technological modernization of the sector will lead to an increased volume of production of quality and safe agricultural raw materials and foodstuffs, contributing to sustainable growth and the development and stabilization of rural areas.
A positive sign is that some EU countries, for example Germany, Italy, Spain, and countries outside Europe – USA, Israel, Qatar, Kuwait and other Arab states – have already showed a serious interest in investing in Bulgarian agriculture.