What Lies Behind Moldovan Farmers’ Protests

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The opposition is fomenting farmers' protests throughout the country, accusing authorities of inaction but no one mentions the real problems scale in the agricultural sector of Moldova, RTA expert Semion Albu said. Semion ALBU, RTA: This year, rich in various difficulties together with the unprecedented drought and poor harvest has become another headache for the Moldovan government. For the past weeks, the catastrophe in the country's agriculture has overshadowed even the slightly boring coronavirus. The authorities’ alarmist statements and the bright protest actions of Moldovan farmers as the "tractor" campaign against Chisinau, facilitated all these events. It is quite clear why namely agricultural affairs are so resonant. Population’s biggest part still well remembers those times when Moldova was a powerful agrarian force and many people do project this image onto the present. In addition, agriculture is still considered one of the leading sectors of the country's economy. That is why the flow of information about lost crops and billions of dollars in losses create an atmosphere of agrarian apocalypse and is perceived so sensitively. In fact, (being no surprise to anyone) the agricultural industry in Moldova has not flourished for a long time and that is mildly put. Its importance for the economy was constantly decreasing and the potential accumulated during the Soviet period just as in many other areas, has largely been lost. If we look at the development of the agricultural sector dynamics, the picture is quite sad: the share of agriculture in GDP over the past 25 years has decreased three times, even the least strategic vision of the industry has been completely lost. Experts have long been talking about the “wildness” of Moldovan agriculture, which is characterized by crop rotation lack, thoughtless land exploitation and misbalance in different crops production. It is not surprising that the yield per hectare in Moldova is on average two times lower than in the countries of the European Union. Over the past years, the number of people employed in this sector has also dropped, although it remains quite high - more than a third of the population but when compared with the GDP share, it speaks clearly about low labor productivity and many other problems. This year’s unprecedented drought forced the authorities once again recall such a critical problem as the irrigation of agricultural lands in the republic. In July, a parliamentary commission was even set up to develop an appropriate national program. However, over all these years, there have been many such commissions, plans and programs while the situation has not changed in anyhow. Only 5% of the country’s territory that was irrigated during the Soviet Union is provided with water now. Rehabilitation of irrigation systems requires huge investments, but so far no one has bothered to attract them. At the same time, every year the irrigation issue rises more and more acutely, taking into account the obvious climatic changes. Indeed, due to the lack of irrigation systems, any drought has a detrimental effect on the harvest just as happened this year, or has happened several times before. Unfortunately, the 2020 agrarian disaster was not a reason for serious discussions to reform this sector of the economy, but just another battleground between the authorities and the opposition on the eve of presidential elections. Especially on this "front" the DA party is zealous seeing within the current crop failure an excellent opportunity to self-actualize and strengthen the shaken positions. Members of the pro-European platform not only actively criticize the government for inaction and offer increasingly difficult conditions for supporting farmers, but also directly participate in farmers' protests. In addition, according to many observers, it was the DA who gave a hand in organizing protests. The government has taken a defensive line and is emergently trying to somehow help the affected farmers: decisions have already been worked out to postpone payments on loans, increase compensation and simplify the procedure for obtaining state subsidies. Nevertheless, it has not yet been possible to come to an agreement with the protesters who apparently not without the opposition help are constantly putting forward new demands. It can be assumed that at the current speeches, the technologies of mass protest actions, which are planned by the opposition for the coming autumn, are being successfully tested. Now farmers are needed primarily in order to become a match that will further ignite the fire of discontent and other industry workers affected by the economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Especially if they fail force the government fulfilling all their conditions, which is quite likely. Hence such creative forms of protests with marches to the capital and accompanying media lighting. Unfortunately, behind all these political combinations, systemic flaws in the industry itself remaining in the shadow are the root cause of all problems, including the poor harvest in 2020. The recent weeks’ events show that politics in the republic has again triumphed over logic and common sense that suggests it is necessary to reform the country's agrarian sector now. In the meantime, everyone is trying to use the catastrophic situation in the industry for their narrow electoral purposes and they will probably forget about it immediately after the end of the electoral process. Until the next unprecedented crop failure, of course.