The Farmer’s Issue to Relegate the Government?

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Anton ŠVEC
The executive branch is failing in everything that concerns the future of the agricultural sector. Absolute disregard to the problems of farmers threatens to devastate Moldova’s agrarian potential
Last week in Romania, the authorities managed to quell protests by farmers’ organizations after a memorandum on the development of measures to support the agricultural sector was signed in the capital. The range of prohibited or quota supplies from Ukraine is constantly expanding, the European Commission has already come to terms with a policy of Romania and other neighboring countries. This allows the eastern countries of the EU to prepare for the next agricultural season and harvest in relative peace. The picture is worse in Western Europe (they did not impose a ban on imports of Ukrainian agricultural products and deprived farmers of certain preferences, such as fuel subsidies, in order to find sources to cover the budget shortage caused by the conflict in Ukraine), that is why protests in France and Germany have not subsided. In Brussels, officials from the EU and several Union countries came out to the farmers, promising support and subsidies. The “European locomotives” will predictably find money for their farmers, as food security, intensive agriculture and consumption are important elements of the economic model established in recent decades. Meanwhile, the situation in Moldova is different. Our market is liberalized not only for dumping from Ukraine, but also for goods from EU countries, the Balkans and Turkey. Domestic agricultural producers, who receive almost no subsidies, have no opportunity to compete with foreign products. Romanian aid, including diesel fuel, as well as EU funding, is not transparently and fairly distributed. In fact, the government is unable or unwilling to adequately use available resources and protectionist economic policies to save the agricultural sector. In early December, Russia banned the import of agricultural products, including processed one, from Moldova. As long as the harvest has not been gathered, the issue is not so acute. However, already in spring and summer, domestic exporters will face the consequences of the anti-Russian political course of Maia Sandu’s regime and PAS. If, in addition, our leadership does restrict the holding of Russian presidential elections on Moldovan territory (Foreign Minister Mihai Popsoi said that only one polling station will be opened - at the Russian Embassy), Rosselkhoznadzor and Rospotrebnadzor, which have recently penalized Ecuador for supplying arms to Ukraine, will hardly reconsider the bans imposed. On the contrary, Moscow may form additional obstacles for goods from Moldova by expanding the prohibited nomenclature, for example, to alcoholic beverages. The country’s agricultural sector also suffers from a shortage of mineral fertilizers and machinery - for many years the main suppliers were Russia and Belarus, but at the moment cooperation has been suspended. The changed logistics of finished products’ delivery discourages, significantly increasing transport costs. At the same time, the government in the current difficult conditions manages to sabotage even such things, the management of which seems to be elementary. A new scandal is related to the decision of the Transnistrian administration to impose customs duties on products transported by our farmers who cultivate land in the communes of Cosnita, Cocieri, Dorotcaia, Pohrebea. Despite the agreement signed by political representatives in 2017, the situation is out of the control of the constitutional authorities. Tiraspol accused Chisinau of failing to fulfil the clause about stopping criminal cases against local officials and of economic blockade. The regional “government” does not hide the fact that the changes in the land use mechanism in Dubasari district are directly related to an attempt to compensate for the losses arising from the imposition of customs duties on all goods imported (and partially exported) by Transnistrian enterprises as of 1 January. The Transnistrian administration met with Moldovan farmers in Dubasari and offered them to “legalize” in the legal field of the region, as well as announced its intention to hold customs clearance of imported fertilizers, agricultural machinery and exported crops. The issue of importing fuel into the region is acute, as such activities are licensed. Most likely, Tiraspol will not stop and will explore the possibilities of applying land tax and other land payments, as it considers this reaction to Chisinau government’s measures to be fully justified. Characteristically, Deputy Prime Minister for Reintegration Oleg Serebrian does not make any special efforts to resolve the conflict. The head of the Power of Farmers Association Alexandru Slusari called Serebrian’s meetings with land users “idle chatter”. On the one hand, the official promised compensation, but on the other hand, he failed to explain how the new mechanism would work. Tiraspol fueled the fire by stating that no attempts to discuss the farmers’ issue were made by Oleg Serebrian, although the regional authorities are ready for negotiations. In this case, the farmers’ irritation will be personalized. The head of the Power of Farmers Association has repeatedly helped the ruling regime by preventing the protests from getting out of control and refusing to formulate specific demands to the authorities. But the current situation is paradoxical - the introduction of customs duties, in favor of which both Slusari and Serebrian spoke, eventually affected not only the economic agents and the region’s budget, but also the agrarians of the right bank. Someone will have to be found guilty, at least for shortsightedness, and in fact - for the inability to do their job properly. It is difficult to predict whether the leader of farmers will stand up not for the entire government, but for a particular official. However, the approach of the authorities is clear - no compromises and logic, only political goals. The agricultural sector will become the second victim of the regime - after democracy and the rule of law.