2015 in review: Drought withers grain production

Newsroom 30/12/2015 | 14:39

The effects of unfavorable weather conditions on agricultural output, and the launch of the first calls for projects under the new NPRD, have been the main developments for the local agribusiness sector in 2015.

Simona Bazavan

 

Romania’s grain production dropped by 25.8 percent in 2015 compared to the previous year, the highest decrease among European Union member states, according to European Commission (EC) estimates. The overall lower production was however not offset by higher prices, as losses in countries like Romania were compensated by surplus elsewhere, indicate market data.

Romania is estimated to have produced some 16.6 million tons of grains in 2015. The highest loss –about 40 percent – was reported by far for corn production. The EC estimates that Romanian farmers harvested 7.5 million tons of corn in 2015, down by 4 million tons compared to the previous year. The wheat production was less affected, with this year’s production estimated at 7 million tons, down by 0.5 million compared to 2014.

Other European countries also saw their production drop on account of the drought, but their decrease rates were lower than Romania’s: Hungary (-16.6 percent), Poland (-11.8 percent) and Italy (-11.3 percent).

While unfavorable weather conditions affected other European countries as well, the losses were far greater in Romania, were an underdeveloped irrigation infrastructure has left farmers particularly vulnerable. Despite the stringent need for investments, local authorities have yet to come up with a coherent plan to address this issue. A draft bill on a EUR 1 billion investment plan in a much needed irrigation infrastructure has failed to pass Parliament, as not enough MPs were present for the vote in September. One month later, the bill passed the Chamber of Deputies.

Another important development this year has been the launch of the first calls for projects under the new National Program for Rural Development (NPRD) for the period 2014-2020 in March. That month, calls were launched for projects for Sub-Measure (SM) 6.1 – Setting up of young farmers and SM 4.1 – Investments in agricultural holdings.

Some EUR 9.85 billion are available for Romanian farmers for investment projects between 2014 and 2020 from the European Union. How these funds can be accessed is regulated by the country’s NPRD.

In 2015, farmers submitted some 5,800 project applications,­­ totaling over EUR 639 million, according to data from the Agency for Financing Rural Investments (AFIR).

The program includes 19 measures, down from the 24 in the NPRD for 2007-2013, which, officials say should allow a better focus on the needs of local farmers and which should help solve some of the issues the sector is dealing with.

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