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MBO Interview

MBO Interview

Interview with prof. Petar Ivanovic Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development

The sector of agriculture plays an important role in Montenegro’s economy. According to MONSTAT data, over the last several years, the share of agriculture in the GDP, hunting and forestry included, has increased reaching 8% in 2011. Almost 38% of Montenegrin territory is in the category of agricultural land, out of which only 9% goes to arable land (fields and gardens). Advantageous geographical location, climate and terrain features, make that the most common agricultural activities in Montenegro are livestock (Northern Region), viticulture (Central region) and fruit and vegetables (Southern region). Owing to the relatively preserved environment, Montenegro has good potential to develop organic agriculture in its own territory. A particular challenge is the reduction of the trade deficit, given that imports amount to 450 million euros of food and exports only 40 million euros, on an annual average. Considering the fact that nearly 49,000 households in Montenegro generate some income from agriculture or it makes major revenue generation activity for them, we discussed this and other topics with the newly elected Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Professor Petar Ivanovic. “Through open and frank discussions with agricultural food producers in several Montenegrin towns,


representatives of various organizations, domestic and foreign experts working on the realization of related projects, we analyzed the basic problems. One of the problems in agriculture is a result of the transition we have been going through, while others have been created for decades and further strengthened by the economic crisis. However, for every problem there is one or more solutions. Therefore, I would like to talk about challenges, rather than about problems.”- said Minister Ivanovic Could you tell us more about further steps that the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development will take in order to make more favorable conditions for agricultural development in the upcoming year? “The first step is the formation of a Sector for payment which is necessary to absorb EU funds in the medium and long term. It is necessary to select and train people, to prepare and adopt comprehensive legislation, to solve a series of organizational and logistical details. Our second step is to strengthen international cooperation in order to launch as many useful projects and programs in agriculture as possible. The third step refers to the completion of the first phase of the registry of agricultural producers and agricultural land. Of course, there will

be plenty of work in the normative part, to improve the organization of the Ministry and field work, since we have to maintain direct contacts with agricultural producers. Increasing overall production, but also linking agriculture, tourism and trade, will be among future priorities of this Ministry. Our agro-budget is about eight million euros, seven million euros are accounted for subsidies, while additional money Montenegro will try to get from the IPA funds. Following relevant EU directives, our priority is to improve quality standards to be able to compete on EU markets, as well with EU products at domestic market. Also reaching EU standards in food safety is at the most importance to us. Did you start taking some measures to improve international relations in order to apply these standards? “It’s a fact that in the shortest time of all the countries of Central and Southeast Europe, Montenegro moved from the restoration of independence to the opening of accession negotiations with the EU. In mid-February of 2013, our delegation visited Brussels and I met with three commissioners of the European Union: Mr. Dacian Cioloş Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Mr. Tonio Borg Commissioner for Health and Consumer

Policy and Ms. Maria Damanaki Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries. During the meetings with the commissioners we discussed opportunities that would result from the adoption of the Common Agricultural Policy as well as what Montenegro could get in the context of certain amendments of the policy, particularly having in mind the size of the country. Commissioner Cioloş agreed to visit Montenegro in the second half of the year, which will be an opportunity to further analyze what could be the priorities in the development of agriculture in Montenegro and what priority areas would be eligible for EU support.“ What are the major challenges that you will face in the future? “The first challenge is to change the way of thinking. Should we continue to look at agriculture as an agro-social meter or will we create conditions for the development of agro-business? It is not a rhetorical, but crucial question, because the

change from one model to another will not be easy. We have to prepare our farmers for the use of EU funds. The sooner we accept the concept of agriculture as a business we will increase the chances of long-term survival and development. However, conducting business in agriculture is not easy and reliance on incentives and subsidies will not give the

expected results. So to change the way of thinking is the major challenge facing us. The second challenge is to modernize our farmers. In order to be competitive they need to implement new knowledge and skills, and technology as well. And the third one is full implementation of standards, particularly in the area of food safety. ” ■

In February you faced with an emergency situation-appearance of aflatoxins in milk. What are the lessons learned? “The recent problem with high levels of aflatoxin in milk has helped us to understand how our food safety system and health of the citizens of Montenegro works. I am satisfied with our quick reaction and the fact that we have achieved a very good cooperation with both domestic producers and processors of milk, and with distributors and retail chains. We had to take some unpopular measures such as the suspension of processing of milk for a few days or those prohibiting the import, but we have shown that the health of citizens is our priority. I believe that we have gained the trust of the Montenegrin public, and that our services, having learned this practice, in the future will quickly react in similar situations. We will strive to raise the standards of food safety in Montenegro and the efficiency of our system in the future. ■