Interview with Nicolae Ciubuc, Minister of Agriculture, Regional Development and Environment
Mr Ciubuc, in 2018 you became Minister of Agriculture, Regional Development and Environment. What determined you to accept this post?
I know very well the problems in the field of agriculture, because I started my activity in the public service right after graduating from the Law Faculty of the State University of Moldova, within the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Industry, institution in which I have activated for seven years,but from 2010, for eight years, I was Assistant Director and Director at the Intervention and Payment Agency for Agriculture.
I accepted the post of the minister as a challenge. I already had the experience of being a manager of a public institution, I understood that it was starting a new stage in my life, with many attempts, sacrifices, but with important support, high attitude, I accepted with much confidence and hope.
What “legacy” did you take from your predecessor?
I have taken on ongoing projects, a good team and, of course, useful recommendations and tips.
What were your first actions as Minister?
From the first day of activity, we reevaluated our business plans by sectors to identify priorities and achieve them, we reviewed the work of the Environmental Fund Council. I have also been concerned with paying subsidies for farmers and running the start-up program to support young people who want to start a business in agriculture, and we have initiated the restructuring of the research and innovation system in education and rural extension in the agri-food sector.
To what extent have you managed to establish the necessary relationship with the ministry team in order to determine the team to show maximum efficiency?
Each of the colleagues in the Ministry has work experience in the public system. They are a team of professionals, good people, who know their duties and obligations. With much of my colleagues, I was honoured to work side by side in the previous Ministry of Agriculture, with others I had the opportunity to work with the AIPA association. Practically, I have a peer-to-peer relationship with everyone, everyone knows that in everyday work I like to tackle problems with responsibility, professionalism, to find effective solutions in operative time.
What were your most successful achievements in this position so far?
A good manager and an agronomist must also have a team of professionals to succeed. I will not attribute my achievements to myself but to the team that has used all the legal levers to make the agricultural sector more competitive, more attractive, with the creation of facilities for access to the drinking water and sewerage system for our citizens, but also to improve the forestry situation. Taking into account the support of government, I’m sure we will be able to do beautiful things. The success of the 2018 year is the launch of the program of start-up projects, agricultural payments, so there are currently no debts for subsidies.
What challenges does the ministry face at the moment?
Moldova as a country with a developed agro-industrial complex is currently relatively less known in the European space and other countries of the world, with the lack of the market being one of the main vulnerabilities of the sector
In the European Union and other countries of the world, the main issues are the need for the domestic manufacturer to have certificates on the implementation of advanced quality management standards.
At the same time, the assortment of Moldovan agricultural products does not fully correspond to the trends and demand on the market of the target countries. Much of the producers do not know English or the level of knowledge is not enough to negotiate or initiate partnerships. Lack of experience in shipping containers by sea. Post-harvest infrastructure (cooling, storage, storage in cold stores, sorting, washing, packaging, labelling) is relatively poorly developed. The cooperation of agricultural producers, especially in the formation of big parties for export and promotion of the product, as well as the impossibility of signing large contracts with the assurance of product assortment, quality, volume and periodicity.
If we refer to the export to the Russian Federation, there are exaggerated requirements in comparison with other countries regarding the quality of Moldovan products. There is also a sophisticated logistics for Moldovan products (certification, documentation, clearance/shipment, transport), small number of transport authorizations for Moldovan experts; prohibitions on goods transit in the Russian Federation to Kazakhstan and other countries in the region; the diminishing of consumers in the Russian Federation, as well as the insufficient promotion of products on this market.
Consequently, agricultural products of Moldovan origin, their exceptional taste qualities are practically known in the neighbouring countries: Poland, Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Italy, Germany. For this reason, organizational, financial, advertising efforts of agricultural producers, professional associations, state structures are necessary.
We are currently working on new projects for new markets such as China, Turkey, Israel, Canada, United Arab Emirates, Bangladesh, India.
Our producers have participated in specialized exhibitions in China, Turkey, the Emirates, etc., where samples of products have raised interest for potential customers. Producers, their professional associations carefully study the market requirements of each country, preferences of customers to form lots of products to satisfy potential customers. Already small batches of samples are sent in all countries concerned so that the local customer can appreciate the product at its fair value.
The diplomatic and trade representations of the Republic of Moldova in the countries of residence provide full support for the identification of information sources, the establishment of contacts and the organization of promotion measures.
Another challenge that deserves great attention is the zootechnical field, especially the production of milk. Due to insufficient milk production on farms, dairy milk is sold on the Moldovan market, which is a problem. In communicating with development partners this sector will be a priority and we will try to attract more projects to develop that field.
At the same time, a challenge I want to address is to improve the insurance system in agriculture, an ambitious field launched more than 10 years ago but has been compromised over time.
What priorities do you have for 2019?
We, the team of the Ministry of Agriculture, Regional Development and Environment, propose in the near future to reform and improve the activity of the important sectors of the agricultural sector, and the most visible ones should be mentioned:
- the development of markets to allow farmers to sell products at competitive prices;
- the reform of the state institutions responsible for water management and aquatic basins, including the modernization of the irrigation infrastructure;
- the reform of scientific and research institutions, which have the obligation to ensure the real transfer of technologies and to bring them closer to the needs of agricultural producers;
- to develop the zootechnical sector in order to provide food security in the country, but also to promote animal products in foreign markets;
- increasing the competitiveness of the agri-food sector by investing in post-harvest infrastructure;
- providing access to water and sanitation services for about 100 thousand citizens;
- launching the call for the selection of rural development projects;
- developing a national afforestation program.
We have ambitious goals for our products to be promoted intelligently. Our products are increasingly appreciated, both in the country and abroad. We will make it possible for the objectives of the agri-food sector to be fully realized, so we all participate in the implementation of advanced technologies, the modernization of the sector and the improvement of the living conditions for the citizens.
How do you think 2019 will be for the domains you manage?
I trust it will be a good year because we will continue to work a lot, with devotion and responsibility.
Political Almanac 2018
Trainee translator: Mihaela Grosu