For 10 years we have lost the whole Pelagonija
The decline of arable farmland is drastic. For just 10 years the arable land in the country has been reduced for 1/6
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Each year we have less and less arable land. This negative tendency seriously threatens Macedonian agriculture. The country might remain without food. Lazar Ivanov, a resident of Stip, every Friday comes to the city market and notes that every year there are fewer producers from Stip, and more middlemen. For him, this results from the bad trend.
“Stip is a municipality with the least villagers. Villages are deserted and only bushes grow on the land. No one cultivates it”, says Ivanov.
Reduction of arable land per years
Year Arable land (in hectares) 2002 577.000 2003 569.000 2004 560.000 2005 546.000 2006 537.000 2007 526.000 2008 521.000 2009 513.000 2010 509.000 2011 511.000 2012 510.000
Source: State Statistical Office
Unfortunately, this statement is confirmed on the whole territory of Macedonia. According to the State Statistical Office, in 2002 arable land in the country was 577,000 hectares, for 10 years only to be reduced to 510,000 hectares. 67,000 hectares have been lost or 13% of the arable land. Just to compare, this land is equal to the total arable land in the Pelagonija valley. So for 10 years we have lost 1 Pelagonija or 2 highlands as Ovce Pole.
Land per capita
Country Land per capita (decares) Bulgaria 5 Serbia 4,4 Croatia 3,5 Greece 3,5 Bosnia and Herzegovina 2,8 Montenegro 2,8 Macedonia 2,3
This is alarming to agricultural experts. According to Dr. Boris Anakiev, former professor at the Department of Agricultural Economics, Faculty of Agricultural Sciences and Food, this is a disaster.
“If we continue like this with the farmland destruction, in 50 years Macedonia will not have any arable land at all”, says Anakiev.
He adds that the country has no land policy and in the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Water Management there are not people who know this issue well.
Although we sent questions to the Ministry of Agriculture about the decline in arable land, however, until the publication of the text we have not received a reply.
Urbanization and lack of agricultural land policy – reasons for decline in farm land
According to agricultural experts, there are two main reasons for the decline in farmland.
The first reason, according to Professor Vasko Zlatkovski fromthe Faculty of Agriculture in Stip, is emigration and aging of rural population, which traditionally dealt with agriculture, so farmland remained fallow.
The second reason is the failure of agricultural enterprises. They had programs for rural development which covered even lower class areas in mountainous areas, but with their demise, these areas have been transferred either in pastures or have been forested. On the other hand, after the collapse of agricultural enterprises large farmlands remained uncultivated, says Zlatkovski.
A former senior official in the Ministry of Agriculture considers that a very bad policy is led in agriculture and that farmland is converted to urban with no analyses.
It is easiest and cheapest to build on a fertile area, but damage for agriculture is enormous and irreparable.
“Industrial zones are placed on the most fertile lands, in the Skopje valley, the Polog valley, in Kavadarci, Zhabjani zone in Bitola, Stip industrial zone. All these locations are placed on the most fertile farmland”, says our source.
He recalls that there used to be a law in which it was clearly stated that if someone wants to convert farmland to construction, land class 4, he should pay compensation for land conversion. This was to discourage the construction on fertile land.
This law was repealed during the government of Ljubco Georgievski from 1998 to 2002.
Land policy – agriculture rescue
Experts seek land policy to be urgently passed to save arable land. According to Anakiev, Macedonia must have a policy and strategy for farmland preservation.
“Building on fertile farmland urgently needs to be reduced. In all towns we have numerous abandoned factories, plants, empty barracks and we usurp the most fertile land for new facilities”, says Anakiev.
He adds that policies from Japan, the Netherlands and Israel should be followed to boost agriculture. These are countries with the least arable land in the world per capita, but thanks to smart policy they have major agricultural production.
In former Yugoslavia there were serious laws to preserve farmland. From 1986 to 1990 the urban plans of municipalities required having to obtain consent from the Secretary of Agriculture, which paid much attention to what lands the urban plan was drawn on. If the lands were from first to fourth class, they received land conversion hard.
According to the arable land, Macedonia is not far from these countries. So after the Netherlands, Slovenia and Kosovo, we have the least arable land in Europe, i.e. only 2.5 decares per capita. Others have double more land than us. Just for comparison, Bulgaria and Serbia have double more farmland than Macedonia.
Subsidies have not stopped arable land destruction
The curiosity in the whole matter of farmland decline is that the biggest waves of leaving the land appeared in the moments when the biggest money in agriculture was assigned. Namely, since 2007 several hundred million Euros have been divided in agriculture. For the same period, the land has been reduced by 16,000 hectares or as 2 Kocani valleys.
According to agricultural experts, subsidies have not played any role in increasing or maintaining arable land. Once given incentives but arable land decreases, it means that there is a bad policy in subsidizing. These subsidies have been wrongly targeted. They have been provided to get as many votes as possible and nothing else, says our source.