EU expertise for the improvement of the walnut sector of the Republic of Moldova
The Republic of Moldova ranks 5th among the largest walnuts exporters, and in 2020, the volume of exports was 12.7 thousand tons. National and international experts believe that the country’s walnut sector is on the verge of important transformations, which could lead to increased production, quality and, consequently, to its increased competitiveness on international markets. The subject was discussed at the National Conference of Walnut Growers held in Chisinau.
79% of walnut exports go to EU countries, and the main importing countries are France, Germany, the Netherlands, Romania and Austria. Also, walnut cultivation accounts for 5% of horticultural exports and 50% of their monetary value. Walnut growers believe export volumes could increase further, from the current 120 million USD to 200 million USD.
“Today, the biggest opportunity that exists for this sector is the fact that we are in geographical proximity to the largest walnut importing area in the world, which is the European Union, representing almost 40% of the world’s total imports. We are on the EU border, with privileged relations, with an Association Agreement. We already enjoy a good relationship working with European importers, they trust our processors. Overall, a very close cooperation has been created and this is, in fact, the guarantee that those who make investments in the field are insured,” said the chairman of the Walnut Crops Association of Moldova, Oleg Tîrsînă.
Specialists believe that it would be necessary to expand the exported range of walnut products, pointing out that the Republic of Moldova has great potential in this regard, that can be exploited.
“We don’t have much competition, our soils and how we work and the prices that are constantly rising – make us very optimistic about this industry’s future. We will also focus on solutions to subsidise this extremely important sector,” said Vladimir Bolea, Chairman of the Parliament’s Committee on Agriculture and Food Industry.
In the Republic of Moldova there are about 20 thousand hectares of walnut orchards, of which 15 thousand hectares, i.e. 75%, are old varieties. According to specialists, these orchards need modernisation to provide double yield and better quality of fruits.
Pascal Gouget, one of the best European experts in the field, who was in the Republic of Moldova at the invitation of the Technical Assistance for the “Livada Moldovei” Project, financed by the European Union and the European Investment Bank, provided recommendations.
Pascal Gouget recently made several visits to walnut orchards in the country and was able to talk to Moldovan growers. “Growers are now more open about the changes they should make, and progress has been made in recent years,” noted Pacal Gouget.
According to specialists, 30-35% of the exported walnut production is from plantations, and the rest is from the orchards. For this reason, another recommendation is to produce walnuts in commercial plantations, as is the case for countries with a developed walnut sector. This requires significant investment, and the European Investment Bank’s Livada Moldovei credit line is one of the financing options. According to the project’s communications consultant Iurie Vîrlan, since the credit line was launched in 2016 and so far, 15 producers and processors of walnuts, almonds and hazelnuts have benefited from these loans with the total amount of investment projects worth 8.7 million EUR.
“The Government meeting approved the resumption of negotiations and the extension of the contract with the European Investment Bank with a balance of 60 million EUR for the modernisation of the horticultural sector. This credit allows us to ensure that farmers do not face financial shortcomings when implementing investments, while being facilitated by this instrument for intervention and payments in the sector,” said Minister of Agriculture and Food Industry Viorel Gherciu.
Livada Moldovei is a credit line offered by the European Investment Bank, which became operational in 2016. Through it, loans are made available for investments in the horticultural sector. So far, 264 investment projects have been financed under the Livada Moldovei credit line, with an allocated amount of 57.3 million EUR.