Romania moves to fill agricultural hole left by Ukraine war

Sunflower

This article is part of our special report How the Ukraine war is reshaping the CAP.

Read this article in Romanian.

As one of the EU’s leading agricultural producers, Romania is mobilising to fill some of the gaps left by Russian and Ukrainian exporters. EURACTIV Romania explores how the war is re-shaping the country’s agricultural priorities.

The conflict has severely disrupted the EU agri-food sector but particularly left its mark in Romania, which borders Ukraine.

This has placed Romania at the forefront of filling some of the gaps left by Russian and Ukrainian exporters.

According to agriculture minister Adrian Chesnoiu, while Romania has already included provisions to improve the resilience of its sector, the country intends to go one step further.

“Many of the things we caught in [the CAP plan] also relate to the associated risks. Before the war came, we already had the energy and gas crisis, with an impact on the results,” he told EURACTIV Romania.

The plan, which details the way in which Romania intends to meet the nine EU-wide objectives of the reformed Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), was submitted to Brussels just days after Russia invaded Ukraine, but prepared prior to the invasion.

The government is now reconsidering its approach to the plan and Romania’s agricultural strategy is likely to be significantly influenced in light of the war in Ukraine.

Romania is especially pushing on food processing, earmarking specific funding to increase its capacity in this area.

“In order to ensure the necessary food, you have to process the raw material,” Chesnoiu pointed out.

Meanwhile, according to Sorin Moise, secretary of state in the ministry of agriculture, the areas that are cultivated with sunflower in several areas of Romania will be larger than last year.

For example, a strong group of farmers from the Mureș area, in the central part of the country, have taken the decision to reorientate themselves away from sugar beet crops after the closure of the sugar factory in Luduș,owned by the French group Tereos, to instead grow sunflowers.

The group is now aiming to set up the largest sunflower processing factory in Romania.

EU supermarkets start rationing foodstuffs amid fears of panic buying

Some European retailers have started taking the drastic step of limiting the amount of sunflower oil per consumer amid ongoing fears that the war in Ukraine will cause food shortages and trigger panic buying.

Moise added that Romania remains supportive of discussions on food security taking place on a larger scale throughout the EU, as well as decisions to approve a derogation from planting crops in areas left fallow for biodiversity.

“For now, there is no cause for concern. But we need to be very careful and see if we can afford to leave 4% of our farmland uncultivated for the rest if we can afford to reduce the number of fertilisers and pesticides and if the application of these measures will not adversely affect cereal production and, implicitly, ensuring the agri-food security of the EU citizens,” he warned.

For his part, Renew MEP Alin Mituța, stressed that Romania should push on producing more protein crops due to the impact of the conflict on cereals used for animal feed.

“We import into the EU a very large amount of protein crops for animals, soybeans, for example… I think we need to develop in the European Union the capacity to produce these protein crops, and Romania has a great potential to do so,” Mituța said.

Another example given by the MEP was the development of alternatives to natural gas fertilisers, something that is especially important in the context of rising gas prices and the need to reduce the EU’s reliance on fossil fuels from Russia.

Despite being one of the largest natural gas producers in the EU, Romania has been severely affected by problems in the fertiliser sector as the largest chemical fertiliser producers in Romania have stopped production either due to legal issues or the high price of gas.

A move to adapt Romania’s strategy to this new reality has been actively encouraged by the European Commission.

For example, speaking during a recent meeting, Mariusz Stefan Migas, head of unit and the European Commission’s Directorate-General for agriculture (DG AGRI), said that these national strategic plans may require amendment to include elements referring to the situation in Ukraine and the implications of the conflict on the EU agri-food industry.

This may include placing an increased focus on sunflower production or opportunities in the field of renewable energy production, he suggested.

[Edited by Natasha Foote and Benjamin Fox]

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