OPPORTUNITIES FOR INCREASING MARKETABILITY OF FRESH VEGETABLES PRODUCED IN ROMANIA
Ana Maria Loredana PREDA1
1University of Agronomic Sciences and Veterinary Medicine of Bucharest, 59 Marasti Blvd, District 1, Bucharest, Romania
Corresponding author email: [email protected]
The review paper is aimed at identifying whether there are management systems put in place for vegetable farmers in the EU for the purpose of collecting the good practices involved that are transferable to other countries, such as Romania. The review places the subject matter in a core position related to the importance of agriculture, the development of small farms and the technological advancements, only to highlight particular potentially innovative and development areas. The emphasis falls upon the Global GAP standard, which is a farm assurance program increasingly demanded for vegetable farmers in Romania who wish to market their products in supermarkets all over the country and intra-community.
Key words: agriculture, development, management, Romania, vegetable
Vegetable farmers in Romania have to face a series of obstacles in marketing their production as they are facing strong competition from the EU member states and from outside the Community.
In order to maximize productivity Romanian farmers have the possibility of growing and marketing vegetables as these products are of the few which may be cultivated on small plots of land, if we consider that the average farm surface is of 3.6 ha (Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, 2015).
During the past 20 years agriculture has modernised radically and the importance of the food processing industry and more recently food services within the economy has increased significantly, so agriculture has become much less important as a source of jobs and much more important as a source of quality products. Consequently, increasing stress is placed on the role farmers may play in rural development.
Using advanced technologies and systems in the field of agriculture and especially in the vegetable production is not a novelty but a definite requirement on the outlook of 2020.
In this context, the review paper presents a critical analysis of the existing literature focusing on integrated crop management systems established for vegetable growers, systems that surpass the capacities of sub-systems such as pre-farm inputs, production and post-harvest activities.
The purpose of the work is to highlight the management systems established in the Community for vegetable farmers enabling them to actively and competitively participate on the common market and identify the characteristics or good practices that are transferable to the Romanian vegetables farmers.
The novelty of the review is that it proposes to add one new element to the integrated crop management systems and adapt these to the specifics of the aforesaid industry encouraging productivity, quality and profits at a time when the consumption of rationally grown vegetables is facing an upward trend.
MATERIALS AND METHODS
The article approaches the matters from a theoretical point of view, as a starting point for a future research involving the creation of a model system adjusted for Romanian small vegetable farmers.
In order to characterize the integrated crop management systems a critical review took place, the materials used being reports and statistics issued by the official EU and Romanian authorities having competence in the field and the public consultation held in 2017 on the modernization and simplification of the common agricultural policy. Besides this, a brief closed and open questions survey has been incurred at the level of 3 major supermarket chains in Bucharest, the largest and most economically viable city in Romania, in view of attaining edifying results on what is and what is not included in the systems used, that may thereafter allow to draw the right conclusions and make informed proposals for the improvement of the systems and as a consequence for the improvement of the results attained by the farmers.
RESULTS AND DISCUSSIONS
Agriculture is a material part of the national economy capable of supporting the Romanian economy achieve balance, depending on the way it is regulated and on how the human capital involved is capable to adapt to the rapid changes of the market and to the advanced technologies.
From the point of view of the regulations it is fair to appreciate that the EU accession, the common agricultural policy, the domestic policies and the funding that went into agriculture for the past 11 years have led to major improvements.
Identifying and transferring good practices from the highly performing EU Member States to the domestic farmers of Romania becomes even more essential as the EU statistics shows that of the approximately 10 million people involved in agriculture in the EU 26% come from Romania. Therefore, Romania has most of the farmers in the EU, their number being estimated to 2.6 mil. people in 2015 (Eurostat, 2016).
In 2016, approximately three quarters (72.8%) of the labour force working in agriculture was concentrated just seven countries: Romania, Poland, Italy, France, Spain, Bulgaria and Germany (Eurostat, 2017).
Also in 2016, the education levels, as classified by ISCED, of those working in agriculture differed highly from those of the total working population. While 17.9 % of the total working population in the EU-28 had at most completed a low level of education, the proportion was 40.7 % for people working in agriculture. As for those who had reached at least a medium level of education, the shares were quite similar for both populations (48.0 % for the total working population vs 50.2 % for those in agriculture). Among the overall working population 33.9 % have graduated from tertiary education, and thus had a high level of educational attainment, while only 8.9 % of those in agriculture have reached such level. The same statistics showed that the farm managers in Romania only have practical experience in agriculture, in a proportion of 90%, while only 1% of them have finalized their studies in their field of activity or a related field (Eurostat, 2017). From this it may be concluded that very few of the people involved in agriculture have the competence to use concepts such as management, system, integrated crop management system, traceability, rationally grown vegetables etc. Still, we are not going to address any matters of education, but bring out another possible solution as follows.
Reverting to the systems used in the EU-28 that are currently in place it was possible to distinguish between 2 major types – the research type systems and the commercial systems, all comprising the following elements:
Figure 1. Generic elements of the integrated crop management system
As you may observe in the figure above there are 6 elements highlighted in blue, as these were the historically the oldest taken into consideration, and the newest having white background.
Also these systems have been adapted for the specifics of certain crops, as follows: 19 apply to arable crops, 17 to fruit, 20 to vegetables, 4 to grapes and 3 to other crops, which include hops, medicinal plants, herbs, spice, ornamental plants and olives (Agra CEAS Consulting, 2002). As agriculture is very dynamic the elements have been subject to various changes and enhancements over the years, depending on the technological advancements, social and economic conditions applicable to every member state.
In order for the farmers to market their products on the local and on the community market it is therefore needed to do more than produce according to certain established standards. The farmers have to be legally organized, duly authorized for their products and even have their farming business verified overall according to a generally recognized standard in order to get good quality products on the market and in return receive fair prices.
Based on the survey conducted it resulted that supermarket chains are in fact multinational companies, besides being nationally spread supermarket chains, which means that these have to comply with a series of extra burdens such as full fiscal disclosure, corporate governance and close quality control.
In order for these traits to be observed the supermarkets demand the vegetable producers, including the local ones to comply in their turn with a series of requirements, of which the most often found is the Global GAP standard certification.
The Global GAP standard first appeared in 1997 under the name of EUREGAP upon the initiative of British retailers and supermarkets in continental Europe, focusing on the consumers’ growing concerns on product safety, the health, safety and welfare of workers and animals and the environmental impact. The initiative took the form of an independent certification system for Good Agricultural Practice (GAP). In 2007 the reach and the goal of the initiative became a leading international standard and took on the name of Global GAP, which is today the most representative farm assurance program, translating the requirements of the consumer into Good Agricultural Practice for more than 125 states worldwide.
The vegetable producers have the opportunity to grow their income or profits significantly on the outlook due to the increased and growing awareness of a healthy lifestyle at the consumer level. In order to take advantage of this opportunity the local producers have to compete with mature producers, larger or smaller, from the EU and from outside the EU (mostly Turkey).
In the same line of thought the public consultation held in 2017 on the modernization and simplification of the common agricultural policy has stressed the objectives of the policy in the sense of increasing agricultural productivity by promoting technical progress and by ensuring the rational development of agricultural production and the optimum usage of the factors of production, in particular the labour force, of ensuring a fair standard of living for the agricultural community, in particular by increasing the individual earnings of persons engaged in agriculture, of stabilizing the markets, of assuring the availability of supplies and ensuring that supplies reach consumers at reasonable prices.
The novelty of the review is that it proposes to add one new element to the integrated crop management system elements aforementioned – that is marketing, as the right marketing strategy may help producers attain the results aimed for. Still this should only be taken into consideration altogether with the system and not separately.
Agriculture continues to be the main activity in the rural areas of Romania, which means that it continues to play a central role in rural development.
Given the small surface available for agriculture for most farmers growing vegetables presents an important opportunity, if harnessed correctly.
Another opportunity is that in recent years the consumer preferences have turned towards a healthier lifestyle, which involves eating healthier food, especially more fresh vegetables.
Also in the line of opportunities is the national regulation on the commercialization of locally produced fruit and vegetables in supermarkets, which comes after a period when fresh fruit and vegetables were found only in farmers markets and directly from the producers. Furthermore these products may currently be capitalized by sale on the internet (electronic marketing).
Using an integrated crop management system helps farmers produce by rationally using the inputs and place the products on the market faster or preserve it in better conditions until finalizing the sale.
Obtaining the Global GAP standard certification facilitates access to the local and community market, as it helps the farmer build trust in relation with its customers.
This research work was carried out with the support of 3 supermarket chains players to whom I bring my utmost gratitude, as they have shown courtesy and goodwill, who answered the questions truthfully and supported the study.
Agra CEAS Consulting, 2002, Final Report for European Commission DG Environment – Integrated Crop Management Systems in the EU, Amended
Dona Ion, 2006, Dezvoltare Rurala, Note de Curs, USAMV Bucuresti, p. 19
European Commission – Agriculture and Rural Development, 2017 Consultations
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2017, A Literature Review on Frameworks and Methods for Measuring and Monitoring Sustainable Agriculture
Jennifer Coleman, Elizabeth Maynard, 2014, Food Safety for Fruit and Vegetable Farms, Purdue Extension publication GP-1-W & University of Illinois Extension publication E-101
Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, 2015, General data on the agriculture of Romania, http://www.madr.ro/docs/agricultura/agricultura-romaniei-2015.pdf
Parliament of Romania, Law no. 321/2009 on the commercialization of food products, in force starting November 19th 2009, Republished in the Official Gazette of Romania, Part I, no. 761 dated September 29th 2016
Publications Office of the European Union, 2017, Agriculture, forestry and fishery statistics, Eurostat statistical books 2017 edition
Publications Office of the European Union, 2016, Agriculture, forestry and fishery statistics, Eurostat statistical books 2016 edition