Romania wants to boost consumer confidence in organics

Organic oranges. [Eliza Adam/Flickr]

This article is part of our special report Rural development in the reformed CAP.

The Bucharest government wants to give organic farming a boost and – at the same time – increase consumers’ confidence in the sector. EURACTIV Romania reports.

Despite its longstanding tradition of agriculture, Romania is still lagging behind in organic farming compared to other EU partners.

Under the new Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) for the period 2014-2020, organic farming plays an increased role.

Organic farms can be supported by the green direct payments from the first pillar, as well as the second pillar, which is rural development. The latter puts special emphasis to support the sustainable development of rural areas and agriculture.

The Romanian Ministry of Agriculture wants to encourage farmers to switch to organic agriculture, as the area cultivated under the ecological system is well below the EU average. Romanian authorities have earmarked up to €236 million in funding for organic farming.

A declining sector

According to the National Program for Rural Development (NPRD) 2014-2020, in 2012 only 2.1% of the total utilised agricultural area of Romania was organic, compared with 5.8% in the remaining  EU 27.

Considering that organic agriculture yields are lower compared to conventional farming, and organic farmers often cannot cover their costs by just selling the products, the Romanian Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development is providing producers with support schemes designed to encourage them to turn to organic farming.

In an interview with EURACTIV Romania, Agriculture Minister Achim Irimescu said: ”Farmers that have organic crops receive financial support so that they meet the standards and implement the requirements of international organisations and markets”.

In particular, farmers can receive compensation payments to convert to organic farming practices and methods, and, after the commitment period, to maintain certification for at least five years.

”Moreover, farmers will receive compensation payments, per area unit, to cover additional costs and the loss of income, as the production of organic farms is lower than in the conventional system”, Irimescu stressed.

Targeting “fake” organic products

In the meantime, fake organic food products are under government’s scrutiny.

The Ministry of Agriculture is checking operators registered in the organic farming system, based both on the notifications from the European Commission as well as reports received by individuals and companies.

In an effort to achieve the best possible results, the Agriculture Ministry has mobilized other national authorities specialized in fighting against fraud, such as the tax authority ANAF, the national agency for consumers’ protection ANPC and the police, the Romanian official said.

The ministry plans to check more operators than the mandatory sample of 5 percent of the total number of registered farmers.

In addition, the ministry will also create laboratories to analyse soil, product samples in cases where a legislation breach is reported. “Therefore, the credibility of organic products will increase while the monitoring of inspection and certification bodies will become more efficient”, Irimescu underlined.

“All these measures will contribute to the improvement of the organic farming system, as the consumers will have more confidence that both organic products and producers opted for this system are complying with the current legislation”, Achim Irimescu concluded.

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