January 19, 2022

Beyond Going Long

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They promised farmers change.  I stayed on paper - landscapes - economics

They promised farmers change. I stayed on paper – landscapes – economics

Farmers, in turn, proposed increasing subsidies and tax breaks to promote self-sufficiency. Two seasons passed and the owners of the land were disappointed with the land. This is the message sent to the government party from Vinohrady Bratislava by those who were supposed to be the carriers of change – vine growers, fruit growers, vegetable growers, potato growers.

Slovak politicians – both from the current coalition and those who have ruled before – have learned that they are masters of speech only. “Let the politicians come among the farmers and show them how they can manage a profit on five hectares in Slovakia when they grow zucchini, parsley, watermelons and apples,” said Emil Machu, head of the largest autonomous organization of farmers and food.

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“If they can, they are perfect. However, they cannot do that because Slovakia is part of the European Common Market and does not face imported products with sufficient means at its disposal.”

Together with representatives of fruit, vegetable, potato and grape growing associations, the head of the SPPK took on one of the most pressing problems of agriculture, the employment of people during the height of seasonal work. This problem, which the previous Pellegrini government tried to solve, has been raised with new intensity during the current harvest.

Apple was born. Who takes them?

For at least two weeks now, people have been listening to the news that Slovakia will have the second highest apple crop in the last 20 years, but there is a catch to catch. This record is equal to 35,000 tons, which is a third of the national consumption (120,000 tons) of the most sought-after fruit.

But even with that amount, fruit producers can’t handle it. Harvesters are missing. Slovaks prefer picking apples in Austria, northern Italy or Germany, because, as the president of the Union of Fruit Growers, Marian Varga, explained, they will earn more there. While abroad we find an average of about eight euros an hour picking apples, at home only 4.50 euros.

The goal of better profits lies in the so-called institute of seasonal work. In some countries, the tax rebate system can significantly reduce wage costs for fruit growers. According to Farge, the Poles who received the title of agricultural tiger in Eastern Europe in recent years do not have a tax burden. Therefore, Polish apples, although not often of Slovak quality, are sold cheaper.

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On the one hand, this causes Slovak consumers to move from more expensive, albeit tastier, domestic production to imported ones. In addition, it burdens the environment with hundreds of kilometers of carbon footprint, but people are mainly buying what is cheaper. After all, a number of other expenses compete with food – housing, transportation, loan repayments, and rent.

What do Slovak producers want not only fruits, but also vegetables and grapes? For everyone else, Varga said they demanded a significant reduction in the tax burden. This now represents 35.2 percent for a fruit farmer’s employer and 13 percent for an employee. “We’d like the payload to be number one,” Varga said, setting out at nine percent.

When they presented the Institute for Seasonal Work two years ago, its creators pumped 12 million euros into the system and predicted that with this amount, five thousand people would be withdrawn from employment offices. According to Farge, the result was pathetic, since the fruit growers allegedly employed only a few dozen people and practically the entire amount of mobilization was returned as unused in the state budget. So now is the time for the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs to finally act. (We did not receive his opinion at the end of the article).

Let’s move ourselves and our children

Varga fears that through the Institute of Seasonal Work, there will be an effort to supply people only from work offices to orchards again. However, it is clear that he does not want to make his living working in orchards. Therefore, the fruit growers hire foreigners to work in the orchards. Their share of the workforce is about 30 percent. But this is not enough. So part of the fruits rot. In the summer, 30 percent of the strawberries were moved, then the rotten apricots seem to come out of the apple crop, the pear.

Farmers claim that foreigners can be hired more easily when Slovaks can’t smell physical labor outdoors. In order to transfer work on fruit and vegetable farms, the work was more flexible, more profitable and competitive, and the share of foreigners in the work teams should reach about 70 percent.

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Thirty years ago, few in the countryside would have imagined a situation where no one would work in agriculture. But even in places where there were no concerns about the cultivation of vegetables and fruits – on the Isle of Rye, today there are no working-age people who would like to bend their backs in the fields. The head of PD Vinohrady, Ján Drobný, says that although there are already combine harvesters to harvest grapes and even harvest better bunches than random harvest pickers, apples cannot be turned by machines.

“Everyone is having a quick discussion today about saving the planet. Well, let’s get away from the internet and absurd discussions on social networks and do something for a greener and more fertile Slovakia,” SPPK President Emil Macho turned the discussion in an unexpected direction. He called the nation to go to the orchards and vineyards. “Let’s work there for at least three or four hours a day, and especially to convince our 17-year-old son or daughter that I will be working part-time in the orchard next summer vacation, albeit for 4 or 5 euros an hour. Only because the movement You won’t hurt them and the country will benefit.”

Real support is missing

In fact, the problem of reviving self-sufficiency lies not only in setting up Slovak agricultural policy, but also in the values ​​that the citizens themselves profess, how active they are, and how less comfortable they are, but, of course, the crux of the problem lies in how the government begins to pursue a policy practical economics.

“Unfortunately, we are skeptical when we see what is happening in society, what politicians pay attention to. It is late at the end of September, but there is absolutely no discussion about the state budget for next year, neither industry nor farmers know what they are planning, or, more precisely, where they will find themselves 2022 is the government’s intentions,” Macho said.

It also targeted the policy of retail chains that prefer buying and selling food over price only. “Who stopped at the fact that the richest German owns two retail chains in Slovakia, which have brought him one billion euros in profits in the past five years?” Machu asked.

What is the essence of the current Slovak agricultural policy? “We feel very strong verbal support, but it is really absent,” said Joseph Omekrast, director of their association, where the root of the vegetable and potato growers’ resentment lies. Potatoes were the second Slovak bread. Since the Slovaks learned to grow it, they never imported it, they made it themselves. Today, its area has shrunk to 5,300 hectares and self-sufficiency has fallen to less than 50 percent.

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“When governments come to power, they swear by the help of farmers, but I repeat, what we lack most is real support,” Omichrasset stressed. All attendees agreed to postpone calls for projects that would lead to the revival of fruit, vegetable and grape production. This, Emil Macho said, may also be related to the Agricultural Payments Agency’s review and approval.

The fact is that the European Commission withholds 25 percent of the funds, which is due to the state of corruption in the allocation of support even under previous governments. But also as a result of the inability of Minister Jan Miovsky to revive the payment agency.

Let them say if they want to

There are many reasons why food production in Slovakia has fallen dramatically and the country already has two billion negative balances in agricultural trade, when it imports what it previously produced. Slovak drama is aptly expressed in wine production. The country, which used to supply wine for itself and the Czech Republic, now imports 70 percent of its wine.

“In 2004, the area of ​​u200bu200bthe vineyards was 23,000 hectares, now 15,000 hectares is registered on paper, but a third of it is completely in operation. Of the remaining 10,000 hectares, only 3,000 hectares of vineyards have been restored,” said Jaroslava Kochova-Batkova. If Slovakia does not revitalize its vineyards in time and does not increase the average production per hectare from five to 9 or 10 tons currently, then local production will be in the role of Cinderella.

what should be done? Macho wondered that it would be fair to tell farmers whether politicians, in addition to words and strategies, were really able to adopt proactive agri-food legislation and, in particular, support local food production with really adequate funding. “Let them tell us honestly what they really want, whether they are going to go the way of increasing or decreasing imports and strengthening domestic production.”