25 C
Bucharest
September 27, 2021
EDITORIAL

The price of bread

2012 was a draughty year for Romania. And for Romania a draughty year is more damaging than for a country of western Europe. Why? Because, there, the industrial capacity exceeds by far the agricultural one, so the respective national economic resources are not limited to agriculture. In our case, however, during the last two decades industry was systematically decommissioned through various kinds of forced privatisations. Why forced? Because to a smaller extent the internal economic conditions and to a larger extent the international finance granted the loans requested by Romania on condition that the country privatises its large industrial units. Precisely such forced privatisations removed from the productive circuit the Brasov tractor works, the Semanatoarea plant of Bucharest and many other industrial units strictly necessary to the modern mechanisation of agriculture. This is why the draughty year 2012 caused big problems to the Romanian economy.

But these troubles do not have the same level of extent and seriousness. The crops of corn, sunflower, sugar beet, vine and others were seriously affected by the intense draught of 2012, when it hit especially after July 10-15, when the respective crops were well developed. The production of grapes, for instance, thus diminished in quantity but gained in wine quality, precisely following the draught that improved flavour and strength. The least affected crops were wheat and strawy plants which, through their biological nature, were able to reach maturity until 10-15 July 2012, when the long draught hit and stayed until autumn.In contradiction to these weather realities, bread was the first product whose price was affected. Through the dispersion of agricultural lands, when agricultural cooperatives were disbanded in 1990, the number of small agricultural owners, also called ‘farmers’ increased significantly. Today, there are approximately 9 million such small ‘farmers’ in Romania, who own between 0.5 and 2 hectares of farmland each. Many of them, who inherited their lands, do not live in rural areas, so sometimes their land is left fallow. This situation affects, each year, part of the arable land owned by villagers, too. Why? The explanation is not “because the Romanian got used to receiving financial aid from the state,” as politicians pretend. It is true that social aid has a central place in annual budgets, but this is the result of severe poverty and the very precarious health state of the population which lives in Romanian villages.So, even if the small farmers wished to cultivate their farmland, they would not have the necessary tools. The traditional units that provided them with tractors and agricultural machines have disappeared through fraudulent privatisations which turned them into scrap iron and sold them for almost nothing. The consequence is that Romania now imports more agricultural products than it exports. But even these exports – as a peak of tragicomedy – mostly rely on the export of scrap iron. And another peak – this time of tragedy – is represented by those frequent scenes when the small farm is ploughed using a small plough drawn by… a mere cow. Such episodes accuse politicians for the collapse of the Romanian agriculture, which took it almost one century back to the past.But even in these very hard conditions the small Romanian farmer is still capable to obtain, sometimes, a quantity of products that exceeds his personal consumption. However, he is unable to sell the surplus because the agricultural market is dominated by mob rings which speculate to the maximum the poverty of the small Romanian farmers. The price offered for agricultural products by the bosses of these rings is derisory, so the small supplementary output of wheat remains unsold, in barns. The abject practices of these proxies on the Romanian agricultural market made that Romania imports more wheat each year, at a higher price than that of the wheat produced at home. It is known that such imports bring “our” mobsters important “bonuses” paid by foreign exporters, who receive financial aid from their governments. We are thus witnessing the savage exploitation of the Romanian producer not just of cereals, but also of vegetables, fruits and all kinds of agricultural products. The associations of farmers, so frequent and powerful in other countries, cannot change things in Romania, because of the poverty that holds the small Romanian farmer in its grip.The Romanian state, driven by clientele interests, grants only small attention to this poverty. This is clearly demonstrated by the permanent price increase of bread, which is the basic – sometimes the only – food product of pauper Romanians. The increases are “justified” not only by draught, but also by the low gluten content of Romanian wheat, as mobsters claim one year or another. So, rulers use the excuse that the imports of agricultural products increase, same as the price of bread. But this permanent price hike is not justified. Even in draughty years, the price of bread should not go up. Because, same as any modern state, Romania, too, must have a strategic wheat supply, equivalent to the national bread consumption for at least two years. A state incapable to guarantee its security is a ghost state. And real security can be achieved through the capacity of defence not only in the military sector, but also in economy. Especially through food security. Because in a state threatened by famine, its military strength risks to collapse.Why do we not resort today to this strategic reserve of wheat, capable to keep the bread price unchanged? This is a question often avoided by politicians. Because, it is known, the wheat supply no longer exists. It was either wasted, or stolen, but it is no more. Why are the culprits spared from answering for this disaster? What are they waiting for? The revolt of the crowd that cannot procure its “daily bread” anymore? When they are asked about this sad probability, in press conferences, our rulers speak about “the wisdom” of trade union leaders, instead of the attempts to eliminate all frauds. This “wisdom” is justified by the fact that many of them became wealthy employers who covertly side with the government. Thus, bread gradually gets more expensive, without any improvement in the sad condition of the small farmer, while more and more hectares of land remain uncultivated.The acting government plans to enforce higher taxes for fallow land. The consequence is not hard to foresee: an increased number of small farmers will have no alternative but sell their lands to big owners. Some of which already amassed properties of tens of thousands of hectares. Most of these still remain uncultivated. Why? Because the new feudal lords usually are “strategic investors” who came to Romania from the west or east, and are quietly waiting for the price of arable land to go up, so they can sell. Purchased in Romania at a price 10 times smaller than arable land in the west, the hope to sell it at prices close to European ones causes big losses to Romania. Thus, approximately 1.5 billion hectares of Romanian farmland remain uncultivated each year. And the figure is only increasing.

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