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Second session of Working group 1 – Agriculture and rural development (Chapter 11) “Agricultural markets in the time of the COVID-19 pandemic”

The Corona virus showed that an all-encompassing, sustained, national strategy for food production is necessary as it is of utmost importance to provide reasonable priced healthy food in a time of crisis. That was the conclusion of Working Group 1 of the National Convention on the European Union in the Republic of North Macedonia for Agriculture and Rural development (Chapter 11), which held its second session, titled “Agricultural markets in the time of the COVID-19 pandemic”, today via the video-conference platform “Zoom”. Leading experts from Macedonia and Slovakia took part in the conference, which was held online. The session was a good opportunity to have an open discussion about questions relating to the disruption of agricultural market relationships and how to overcome the problematic areas concerning production, procurement and distribution.

“Food is finally on the agenda. The Corona crisis revealed all the weaknesses in agricultural production, but on the other hand, now is a good time for an comprehensive food production strategy to be made.” Said Aleksandra Martinovska-Stojcevska, a professor at the Faculty of Agricultural Sciences and Food, further adding that the pandemic made way for some positive changes such as new sale means like door-to-door and online sales of agricultural products.

 

The statement of Martina Tosevska, of the National Farmer Federation was along the same lines, remarking that the virus forced them into creating an online sales platform for agricultural products.

The experts from Slovakia shared their experiences and the measures taken by Slovakia and the EU in order to make agriculture more expeditious, since it is  one of the vital sectors required to maintain stability in the other branches of the economy. The Minister of agriculture, forestry and water economy of Macedonia, Arjanit Hoxha, also took part in the session alongside Slovak expert Jan Barsvary and the director of the Slovak Foreign Policy Association Tomas Strazay, joining NCEU-MK experts: Aleksandra Martinovska-Stojcevska, Ana Simonovska and Biljana Petrovska-Mitrevska and co-chairs Maja Lazareska and Vasko Hadzievski.

Zoran Sapuric classified the event as useful in the complex circumstances of the COVID pandemic during which we are facing daunting challenges.

Svetlana Kolaric, an advisor in the Food and Veterinary Agency that two manuals for the easier direct sale of homegrown products have been enacted, observing that the silver lining of the movement restriction is that has led people back to buying homegrown products.

Trpe Stojanovski highlighted the need for a solid local infrastructure to provide access to the agricultural surfaces, to prevent agricultural workers from getting demoralized.

Nikola Babovski asked for support for the production sector, noting that the Government has provided backing for eco fuels, subsidies for cabbage, and that 1500 denars are being dedicated for each female lamb for procreation.

The president of the National Farmer Federation complained that the farmers suffered immense loses due to the curfew. Ivan Vangelov of the NFF, a fruits and vegetables farmer, remarked that the procurement prices are too low, and the flow of goods too slow.

The president of the European Movement, prof. Dr. Mileva Gjurovska concluded the session with the assessment that the addresses were extensive and abundant with substantial recommendations and asked for another recommendation, concerning the hiring of season workers, to  be added as another crucial issue for the agricultural sector, especially in a time of crisis.