The bitter harvest of Moldovan gardens due to the war in Ukraine

A woman sorts apples at a producer in Belicenii Vechi, Moldova, on March 31, 2022. (Daniel MIHAILESCU/AFP)

In a warehouse in the north of Moldova, boxes filled with red apples are piled up to the ceiling, but the owner of the premises is not happy with such an abundance.

Since Russia’s invasion of neighboring Ukraine on February 24, many farmers no longer know where to sell their goods traditionally destined for Russia.

“I don’t know what we’re going to do with the remaining apples, there are too many of them on the Moldovan market,” sighs Valeriu Matkovschi, who is in his sixties and owns a farm in Belicenii Vechi.

Usually he exports his entire crop to Russia, i.e. 2000 tons per year, based on five to seven heavy vehicles per week.

Today he must look for new exits in order to survive.

At the end of March, he finally sent the first container to Kuwait, but he had to reduce prices by a third, and the customer is much more attentive to the varieties.

The apple producer also has contracts with Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

He hopes that “you won’t have to ship apples to processors. It will be a tragedy,” he says, citing the financial losses involved.

EU to the rescue

Crates of apples in a warehouse in Beliceniy Vechi (Moldova), March 31, 2022.
Crates full of apples pile up in a warehouse in Bilichenii Vechi, Moldova, on March 31, 2022. (Daniel MIHAILESCU/AFP)

A former Soviet republic of 2.6 million, nestled between Romania and Ukraine, Moldova “is in a difficult situation,” government secretary general Dimitri Udrea worries in an interview with AFP.

The war in Ukraine has led to an influx of refugees, which has had a significant impact on the country’s economy, which is also suffering from disrupted supply chains and soaring gas and electricity bills.

“In 2022, we are afraid of a contraction of 3% in the optimistic scenario and 15% in the gloomiest,” he explains, and inflation could reach 30% by the end of the year.

Moldova, with a gross domestic product of less than 0.5% of France’s GDP, was already struggling to recover from a series of economic and political crises, coupled with a high-profile banking scandal that resulted in the disappearance of one billion dollars in 2014-2015.

In response to Chisinau’s call for help, Germany, France and Romania are organizing a donor conference in Berlin on Tuesday to help the country cope with this burden.

“We are going to present projects aimed at, among other things, energy security and purchasing power, hoping to receive funding of 4 billion euros” in the form of loans and donations, explains Mr. Udrea.

Thanks to a free trade agreement signed with Brussels in 2014 — a move that prompted immediate crackdowns from Moscow — Moldova has made progress in trade with the European bloc, which accounts for more than 60% of its exchanges in 2021.

And he hopes to deepen relations with the EU: in early March, an application for membership was submitted.

Close ties with the East

The entire annual production of apples by Valeriu Matkovschi was sold to Russia before the war in Ukraine.
All the annual apples of Valeriu Matkovschi were sold to Russia before the war in Ukraine (Daniel MIHAILESCU / AFP)

However, it is impossible to replace overnight its traditional partners in the East: Russia, Ukraine and Belarus.

“At first glance, the share of exports to these three countries – 15% – is small, but several sectors are heavily dependent on them, including apple growing in the first place,” says economist Adrian Lupusor from the Expert research group. -Group.

Construction and agriculture are stopped on raw materials supplied by Russia and Ukraine. “Even if importers find suppliers elsewhere, prices will be much higher,” he said.

In addition, Moldova, from which more than a million people have emigrated in search of work over the past two decades, could see a decline in remittances from Russia, a government official warns.

This is a vital line for many families.

Some of the approximately 300,000 Moldovans working in Russia may even return to the country, putting pressure on the labor market and social security system, Mr. Lupusor adds.

Between workers sorting apples and back and forth pallet lifters, Mr. Matkovsky shudders at the thought of perhaps having to part with his fifty workers.

“I don’t even dare to think about it, I hope we hold out.”

Leave a Comment