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The land

It is highly diversified, with contrasting geographical features. The relief consists of hills, deep river valleys and depressed plains. The highest altitude is 430 m above sea level. According to Koeppen’s classification, the country has a combination of cold, temperate and dry types of climate, depending on the location. Annual precipitation ranges from 500-550 mm in the North, to 450 mm in the centre and 350 mm in the South. Distribution of precipitation is uneven, resulting in frequent droughts; moisture deficits and frost affect adversely certain crops; and torrential rains in the warm period cause soil erosion.

Arable land and permanent crops cover 2.2 million ha, most of which is on Chernozem, rated among the most fertile soils of the world, with organic matter up to 5%; pastures and forests cover about 0.4 million ha each.

The main crops are wheat, maize, sunflower, sugar beet, vegetables, potatoes, fruit plantations and vineyards.

Other indicators

The average daily availability of calories per caput was 2 539 in the 1995-97 period. The labour force participation ratio of women to men was 0.9 in 1998. Agricultural exports include maize, plums, grapes and tomato juice.

Agricultural sector

Moldova is a small and densely populated country that is heavily dependent on agriculture. The main types of farming are viticulture, horticulture and cereal production. When part of the FSU, Moldova was an important producer and exporter to regional states. Since the collapse of the grain and livestock markets, its role declined considerably, to the point that it is not self-sufficient in cereals if production is below average. Since homegrown cereals were used for livestock feeding, the country found itself with a need to improve the quality of grain for bread making flour. That is a major main concern as per caput bread consumption is around 300 g/day.

National agricultural policy

Transition to a market economy is based on substantial change in trade policy towards liberalization and integration within the global economy. However, for the cereal subsector, the government is concerned that the country produces enough wheat to meet the national demand for bread at an affordable price, hence the possibility of establishing a Strategic Grain Reserve to guard against possible market shortages.

Land tenure

After independence, land was privatized, and ownership distributed to eligible citizens. The average family was entitled to plots of between 1.5 and 2.5 ha. At the end of 1997, 82% of agricultural land was in private ownership. Four categories of farms emerged: (i) small individual farmers; (ii) individual commercial farmers; (iii) farmers in associations with close relatives; and (iv) farmers in groups (from less than 10 farmers to large, joint-stock companies). The last category comprises either groups formed spontaneously and taking decisions by mutual agreement, or segments of old collective enterprises that retain some efficiency but meet new types of managerial problems.

The small size of many farms precludes the use of agricultural machinery and advanced technology; for that reason, manual labour continues to be used, leading to poor efficiency and profitability. To overcome these constraints, farmers with initiative rent land from people who have retired; they also move from one category to another in order to have easier access to inputs and credit or to practice more independently. Two farmers’ associations were created in 1996, with respectively 25 000 and 50 000 members, to defend the rights and interests of private farmers. Service cooperatives have also been established throughout the country.

Availability of agricultural inputs

Access to farm equipment is difficult due to an unequal distribution and inadequate servicing. The use of fertilizers is very low and in some cases tantamount to abandonment of the fields, particularly vineyards and orchards. The low demand and the widespread use of barter delays the development of a true competitive market for agricultural inputs. Access to credit remains extremely difficult.

Seed sector

The Law for the Protection of Plant Varieties recognizes and protects rights certified by the grant of a variety patent. The authorities responsible for the legal protection of the varieties are: the National Council for Plant Varieties (for overall policy and authorization to use varieties); the State Commission for Variety Testing (for testing and maintaining the Register of Plant Varieties); and the State Agency for the Protection of Intellectual Property (for receiving requests, effecting registrations, publishing information and granting patents). New varieties must satisfy the DUS criteria. The breeder of a new variety (author) has the right to an equitable remuneration of no less than 15% from any proceeds.

The 1991 Act of the UPOV Convention entered into force in respect of the Republic of Moldova in October 1998. The Selectia Research Institute undertakes plant breeding activity for wheat (with 9 professionals), barley, (hybrid) sunflower, (hybrid) sugar beet, and pulses. Two varieties of winter wheat commonly grown in Moldova were developed at Selectia. The Porubeni Research Institute breeds maize. Both institutes are financed by the Ministry of Agriculture and Processing Industry (MAPI) and are linked to the Academy of Sciences.

A 1999 project reported that the institute, without true contact to the market, determines the selection criteria for varieties chosen for multiplication, which include resistance to disease, frost, quality and yield.

Selectia produces mother seed, which is then multiplied on special multiplication farms through Super Elite, Elite and finally Pedigree seed stages. Selectia has one farm for Super Elite seed production; the seed is then passed on to the 12 production units through barter transaction for Elite multiplication, under the direct supervision of MAPI, which is also responsible for certification procedures. Selected commercial farmers purchase Elite seed and multiply it up to Pedigree stage. There are other commercial companies in the plant breeding sector, particularly for vegetables.

Improved varieties account for the major portion of agricultural output and farmers in general purchase their seed for annual crops. The market has also a fair quantity of non-certified seed sold through barter. For small farms or home gardens, preference is given to old local varieties, grown from a portion of seed set aside from the previous years’ crop.

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