AGRILINK – Exploring The Romanian Advisory Services
In AgriLink, one thing we want to know is who’s an information and inspiration to the farmers – the ones that nurture us.
A first step that we took, in AgriLink2020, was an evaluation of the current state of the Romanian advisory system. This was achieved by reviewing existing literature and followed by a stakeholder analysis. We found that there is very little literature covering the state of public advisory services beyond 2010 when ANCA (National Agency for Agricultural Consultancy) was dismantled and there is no coverage of private consultancy services – and no theoretical clarification of these. So, how does the Romanian advisory system look like? Who forms it and how does it function?
Regarding public services, they are to be found at two levels:
- National – led by a small “Compartment of consultancy, extension and training” in MADR (Ministry for Agriculture and Rural Development) where few of the former staff of ANCA are still working. This compartment is rather isolated and under-resourced.
- County-level – within DAJ (Directorates of Agriculture at county level) re-organized in 2017, with the following attributions: trainings, technical assistance for projects accessing EU funds, drafts and approves projects for pastureland planning, informs on norms of cross-compliance and GAEC on nitrates, issues producers certifications and performs field based verifications on various natural disasters.
In the private sphere we find:
- Several NGOs try to assist vulnerable rural communities with capacity building or/and knowledge transfer. However, they are limited in their reach by their available resources and the fact that the type of projects they initiate requires a longer time-span that they can afford.
- Private consultancy companies generally function by request and they address big farmers. They almost exclusively assist farmers in applying for European funds. For technical issues they revert to external advisers.
Farmers often discuss their technical questions with input suppliers which assist them with various information – from cropping techniques to machinery recommendations and soil tests. However, this depends on the personal relations they have and it is not standard procedure.
Sectorial research is largely disconnected from the market realities. It is project-based, thus on a set duration not always tailored to field realities. There are no measures for long-term continuous adoption of research results and farmers are almost completely unaware of the researchers’ activity.
Much more interest and activity lies on the retailers account. Prompted by a law (321/2009) that obliges retailers to acquire 51% of meat, eggs, fruits, vegetables, honey, dairy and bakery products from direct partnerships, big retailers started to develop relationships with local producers. This new context has led two supermarkets to get involved in building agricultural cooperatives to support the rising demand for local produce and respect the new legislation.
In conclusion, our research confirmed PROAKIS findings saying that Romania has weak and fragmented Farm Advisory System. The farmers find it hard to navigate among the ever-changing legislation and market conditions. Much of the dysfunctionalities within the sector, like low productivity, little investment and European funds absorption relate to this lack of proper guidance. Although there is much interest coming from the private actors, the many services ANCA offered cannot fully be provided by these actors. Therefore, the extension services have virtually disappeared together with the public institution. However, during the interviews, all the stakeholders shared a sense of urgency and desire to improve things in their field.
Cosmina Dinu, Highclere Consulting