FAO Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia

FAO support coming to table grape producers in the Republic of Moldova

©FAO/Dorin Goian

29/02/2024, Chișinău

The Republic of Moldova's table grape sector is set to gain new opportunities thanks to its inclusion in the "One Country One Priority Product" (OCOP) initiative, led globally by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). A pivotal technical assistance agreement, valued at USD 350 000 for two years, was formalized at the start of this week between the FAO Representative in the Republic of Moldova, Raimund Jehle, and the Deputy Prime-minister and Minister of Agriculture and Food Industry (MAFI), Vladimir Bolea.

The OCOP initiative is a country-led and driven effort that selects, then promotes and incentivizes the value and market chains of what is known as Special Agricultural Products (SAP). A country identifies only one priority SAP that shows unique qualities, geographical locations, farming practices, cultural heritages, or untapped potentials. These are products that have not yet fully capitalized on the benefits of agricultural and rural development programmes, and which also contribute to food security and to a sustainable environment and biodiversity. By selecting the table grape as a priority product, the Republic of Moldova acknowledges the sector's role to significantly contribute to the country's economic prosperity and to healthy, diversified diets.

This assistance arrives at a crucial moment for Moldova's table grape producers, who are navigating through numerous challenges, including the ongoing war in Ukraine, geopolitical tensions, and economic uncertainties. Faced with an annual production of over 130 000 tonnes—60 percent of which is traditionally exported—the sector struggles with rising production costs, limited market access, and a heavy reliance on imported agricultural inputs. These hurdles emphasize the urgent need for a strategic pivot and market diversification, especially towards the European Union, to maintain the sector's long-term viability.

Leveraging FAO’s expertise and knowledge, the project will undertake a comprehensive Value Chain (VC) analysis to pave the way for an informed investment strategy that complements existing policy frameworks. Moreover, the project will facilitate the creation of five Farmer Field Schools across the country. These schools will serve as platforms for practitioners to learn and adopt sustainable production techniques and marketing innovations. A Knowledge Hub will also be established, offering a repository of information pertinent to the table grape sector, which will subsequently be managed by the Office for Vine and Wine under MAFI.

©MAFI Republic of Moldova 

During the official signing ceremony, Raimund Jehle highlighted that "this structured approach to tackling immediate challenges, alongside strategic plans for long-term sustainability and growth, provides a solid foundation for boosting the resilience and profitability of the Moldovan table grape sector. This initiative is crucial within the FAO Regional Programming Priorities, aimed at empowering smallholders, family farms, and youth for better rural livelihoods, enhancing agri-food trade and market integration, and managing natural resources sustainably in a changing climate."

Minister Vladimir Bolea noted this collaborative venture with FAO aligns well with the government's drive towards innovative and sustainable agricultural practices. "The implementation of this agreement will help the government to improve the entire value chain of the table grapes sector by fostering smart, sustainable, and climate-resilient agriculture, alongside nurturing local markets and bolstering export capabilities. I am confident that FAO expertise will be valuable to our small producers of table grapes who will be able to learn and apply new technologies and tools for increasing their production and income," he said. 

An inception workshop of the project that will bring together stakeholders from the table grape cultivation sector, government authorities and FAO experts is planned for April 2024.