The country consists of lowlands, with many scattered, small lakes. According to Koeppens classification, the climate is of the cold type, with occasional maritime influence. Arable land and permanent crops cover 3 million ha, 2 million ha is under forest and 0.5 million ha is permanent pasture. The main crops are spring barley, winter wheat, winter rye, spring wheat, potatoes, oats and pulses. Crop production includes also sugar beet, horticultural crops and linen fibre.
Average daily availability of calories per caput was 3 119 in the period 1995-97.
The labour force participation ratio of women to men was 0.9 in 1998.
National agricultural policy
Beside the programme of land restitution and privatization (see below), the objective of the current policy is to support the development of a competitive farming sector, by gradually abolishing price subsidies and reducing the level of trade protection. Prices have been de-regulated and quantitative trade restrictions have been replaced by tariffs. A new system of taxation in agriculture has been prepared. A Rural Support Fund administered by the Ministry of Agriculture and local authorities supports the agro-food market and exports through investment schemes, a loan guarantee scheme, research, training and advisory services.
An agreement with the EU came into effect in 1998; Lithuanias future aim is accession to membership. This requires harmonization of policies and regulations with those of the EU, including those linked to quality standards and product certification. WTO membership will open up new export possibilities. Lithuania has a free-trade agreement with Ukraine.
Over the last decade, all collective and state farms were re-organized and privatized, creating a large number of small private farms. In 1997, there were some 1 660 large farms, which, with rented land, could reach an average size of 372 ha; the rest included 196 000 family farms with an average size of 7.6 ha, and 342 700 household plots averaging 2.2 ha. In spite of amendments to the laws on land restitution, compensation and lease, the entire sector remains unsettled, particularly for use of land as a collateral.
Rural areas are characterized by a significant level of overcapacity, obsolete equipment, a surplus of agricultural production and low income for farmers. Low income has kept the quantity of inputs used below minimum levels, suspended the disposal of agricultural waste (thus causing severe pollution problems) and prevented access to credit.
It is regulated by the Law on the Protection of Plant Varieties and Seed Production (No I - 1518, 17 Sept. 96). It covers vegetative propagating material and is also designed to enable access to the UPOV (1978) Convention. Its Annex I has legalized a mandatory seed certification procedure.
Plant breeding is carried out at the Lithuanian Institute of Agriculture (LIA) for a large variety of crops, through various breeding stations. The Lithuanian Institute of Horticulture (LHI) is in charge of horticultural crops. Each institute has about 20 breeding specialists. Private enterprises may also carry out breeding activities.
Variety evaluation and registration
The procedure requires a formal application, followed by a period of trials for DUS and value in cultivation and use (VCU) tests. Responsibility for variety testing, registration and maintenance of the National List is with the State Variety Testing Centre for all crop species. Final review is carried out by the State Commission for the Evaluation of Plant Variety Registration, prior to inclusion into the List and approval for release. In 1998, the List included 500 varieties (net of 100 additions and 50 deletions). The crop area under improved varieties was 100% for the main species, and 75% for potatoes.
The generation nomenclature uses the following: Breeders seed (P), Pre-basic (A, Super Elite), Basic (B, Elite) and Certified (C1, C2, ...). The main seed producers are the two state breeding institutions mentioned above, and eleven private enterprises (three for seed and eight for trees and bushes for fruit production). The two main institutions may also use private farms for the production of generations successive to Pre-basic seed. In all, there are 257 farms licensed for seed production. Seed growers must be authorized by the Ministry of Agriculture for sale of Basic and Certified 1 and 2 seed.
Testing, certification and control
The State Seed Inspection of the Ministry of Agriculture has overall responsibility for seed testing, certification and control. The activity is carried out under national legislation and regulations as well as international (ISTA) rules.
There are nine state inspection branches (for field inspection and quality control) and 34 decentralized units (mostly for laboratory work). Guidelines for seed inspection are in compliance with the OECD certification scheme; for vegetative propagating material the guidelines are issued by the Ministry of Agriculture. The central Laboratory of the Service, in Vilnius, is authorized to issue ISTA certificates. Lithuania applied in 1998 for admission to the OECD Schemes for varietal seed certification for Cereals, and for Herbage and Oil Seed).
Seed processing, storage, marketing and distribution
Each of the seed-producing farms has processing facilities. The largest one is the seed production farm of LIA (processing wheat, barley, rape, forage, grasses and potatoes), which has the largest storage facility for potatoes (500 t at 5°C) and other crops (1 500 t). The main suppliers are those mentioned above under Production. Chemically treated Pre-basic and Basic seed is subsidized. The subsidy for Pre-basic is provided through 110 private and 90 community farms. Seed producers plan their seed growing amounts according to their own experience. The State supports early generations of seed, which are often purchased for own cropping rather than for general multiplication. Farmers prefer to buy subsidized premium seeds and to re-use them for as long as they can be used.
Data concerning recent national seed production are not available. In 1998/99, imported seed was maize (486 t) from Ukraine and Germany, wheat (76 t) from Denmark and Germany, barley (61 t) from Sweden and Estonia, potato (563 t) from Sweden and Ukraine, and sugar beet (98 t) and clover (19 t) from Denmark and Germany. Exported seed included wheat (6 729 t) to Belarus, potato (134 t) to Poland and sugar beet (23 t) to Denmark and Germany.
Seed farmers are trained at field days and demonstrations. Inspectors are trained for their tasks; they also meet once a year to compare methods and exchange experience.
The activity has been carried out at LHI as part of an ongoing research programme on fruit trees, vegetables, ornamental plants and culinary herbs.
Both LIA and LHI have been carrying out research on seed production. In addition, LIA has programmes on seed quality control, storage and packing
The main collections are at LHI (87 species, 2 227 accessions) and LIA (23 species, 4 289 accessions).