Bulgarian agriculture hides untapped potential

Eleven years after entering the European Union and the application of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), Bulgarian agriculture remains below its potential capacities, experts believe. Conditions for agricultural business have been radically modified under the impact of the CAP and government support in the form of additional domestic payments.

It nonetheless remains that the EU has been faced in recent years with one of its biggest challenges: a two-speed Europe. The continent is far from being homogeneous from an economic and social perspective, and the collective decisions which are taken often entail bureaucratic difficulties. And while the longer standing members of the Union place environmental issues at the top of the agenda, in Bulgaria the priority is on farming revenue and growth. This is precisely the big challenge: how and to what extent can the CAP succeed in combining and/or reconciling these two doctrines?

According to the Bulgarian National Statistics Institute, some €3.5 billion were passed on to Bulgarian agriculture in the form of different subsidies in the first seven years following its accession. Closer analysis of these funds’ uptake show, however, that most of this envelope went to larger farms - more than 80% of direct payments. At the same time, it is the small farms that need subsidies the most.

At the current time, the level of Bulgarian agriculture supported by the CAP is as yet unsatisfactory and a long way off its full potential, say specialists. It is for this reason that Bulgaria is obliged to import farm products, to such an extent that 70% of fruit and vegetables on sale are not produced in Bulgaria.

The effective uptake of European subsidies is the key to opening up new perspectives for Bulgarian farming, stress the experts. They believe that it is important to take up the funds, but that these funds should have a long-term impact on farming and the development of the different regions in the country.