National bank sentences small farmers to decline

Today, Romania is a country without agricultural vision. As the country opens its agricultural markets to foreign investors, Romanian authorities seem to lack any coherent direction for the future of agriculture. With each new minister comes new laws and regulations, creating stress and a sense of uncertainty among farmers, and making it impossible for policy analysts to observe the effects of any one policy.

At present, around 9% of Romanian agricultural land is owned by foreigners. A figure the authorities are keen to increase, presenting foreign investment as a solution for the future of Romanian agriculture. The question is, are these investors building an infrastructure which will help Romania in the long term, securing food for the country, or are they simply using the low price of land in Romania to make huge profit for very few, sending unfinished food products abroad to be processed and sold elsewhere.

Rather than trying to transform the country overnight, or even worse, hoping for outsiders to develop policies and invest in Romania, policymakers must make unique policies to deal with the situation as it exists in Romania. A country with an agricultural tradition as rich as Romania should be able to develop its own agricultural vision and carry it out.

Sadly, the latest declarations of the Romanian National Bank (BNR) representatives sentence the small producers and peasants to a swift disappearance. In a recent interview offered for the information website, Mr Valentin Lazea, Head Economist of the BNR declared that:

“We have the interest to remove subsistence and small-scale farmers from agriculture. For sure, they won’t approve of this measure. We are talking about a long-term measure with beneficial effects.”

Benefits for who? The peasants of Romania are its biggest strength, not a liability which drag Romania down. A country can be a country of small-scale farmers and still be a modern European state. Policies must be based on making those peasants the base of a strong supply chain in a vibrant rural economy.

Exceeding his responsibilities, the economist provides the following “solution” to place the newly available workforce in his hypothetical measures of “uprooting” the peasants: “There are so many industries which do not ask for specific knowledge, or let’s say, intellectual workforce. We can talk in this context, about the construction and lumber industry, or service industry, like barbershops, car washes or newspaper stands.”

Romania has 4.5 million peasants, which, in the present hostile political climate, still feed 30% of the country. Local food is healthier, more resistant, uses less energy to reach consumers and plays a vital role in the support of local communities. It is alarming that a country as rich and diverse as Romania imports over half of the food it consumes from abroad.

Eco Ruralis – in support of organic and traditional farmers, and member of the International Peasants Movement La Via Campesina – condemns the unfounded and offensive declarations of Mr Lazea and demand that the management of the National Romanian Bank, a public institution, takes immediate measures, removing Mr Lazea from his responsibilities and presenting a coherent vision focused on a stable local economy, involving the recognition and support of small producers.

Mr Lazea’s proposals are incoherent, lack any sense of reality and would only deepen the food insecurity in Romania which is in a continuous rise, the country relying more and more on imports/exports. Policies which are intended to circumvent the peasants and make them obsolete must be replaced with polices which place them at the centre of the action.