Skopje, 19th July 2012 (MIA) – In just 30 days, at the peak of the most serious phase of the debt crisis, Government paid the farmers EUR 63 million. From 15th June to 15th July, these budget funds were directly transferred to their accounts, something that has not been done ever before, Prime Minister, Nikola Gruevski, said at the press conference at the Government Building.

Gruevski added that almost EUR 20 million was transferred to the accounts of 27,000 tobacco growers before the due term.

– This is the average assistance we have been granting every year, which was not the case in the past when this sector was extended no support," Prime Minister underlined.

Strives of the Government aimed at supporting and developing agriculture sector, as one of the leading economic branches, are also seen, Gruevski stressed, in the commitment not to step back, postpone or reduce the payment of the subsidies, especially amid of the biggest debt crisis, when large number of the countries in Europe and worldwide drastically cut the measures for providing assistance to the economy, including the agricultural sector.

– When we were given the term of office by the people to conduct the processes, our program was strongly focused on agriculture support. We have remained consistent with the promises made to the farmers. First measure we implemented was exactly the introduction of higher subsidies than the previous EUR 20 million. Each year we increase that amount, 45 million, 70 million, 100 million, 115 million in the last year. Subsidies are intended for number of agricultural products, precisely defined in the program, they are realistic, measurable and visible. They contribute to motivating farmers increase the production, operate their companies, invest, extend the scope of arable land, to meet their needs and interests, Gruevski said.

Macedonian agricultural sector, he underlined, has a potential, as well as hard-working, persistent farmers who, supported with government measures, adjust to both European and global trends.

This Government understands the difficulties farmers face, being a result of previously implemented privatization, giving no results, of the main capacities in this sector.

– We also understand their effort to improve competitiveness and marketing of the manufactured products on the domestic and the choosy foreign markets. Such understanding means assistance, continuous support we are ready to extend to the farmers. We constantly monitor the trends. We are actively involved in attracting investors for purchase and processing of agricultural products. We have provided access to IPARD funds and most favourable interest rates of just three percentage through credit lines offered by the Macedonian Bank for Development Promotion, we co-finance the procurement of agricultural machines, tractors, combine harvesters, caravans, agricultural equipment, drop-by-drop systems, sprinklers, mowing machines, …. in the amount of 50% of the total price of the machines or the equipment, Gruevski said.

So far, over 40,000 ha arable agricultural land was distributed, and additional 20,000 ha are to be distributed, agricultural irrigation and drainage channels are cleaned on regular basis. It is envisaged to clean 70 km of channels this year alone. More than 150 measures and activities to support agriculture sector are additionally implemented.

Prime Minister, in addition to the financial support to the production through subsidies, also announced strong and committed work on ensuring the marketing of the Macedonian agricultural products, their promotion on foreign markets and support when exporting.

As Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Zoran Stavreski, said, there was never larger support extended for the farmers like now, never in the history of the country that many funds were allocated to agriculture.

– We will continue each year with even more intensified pace, since Macedonia is an agrarian country and most of our citizens earn precisely by being engaged in the agricultural sector. Through subsidies we stimulate production of products with a recognizable high quality and export potential, tobacco, vine growing, vegetables and fruit, sheep rising, goat breeding and organic production, as well as products with lower productivity, which are important to provide basic food for the citizens, like crops and cow’s milk. Thus, we create conditions to increase export, as well as reduce import of deficient food products, stimulating domestic production, Stavreski underlined.

If we take into account that export of agricultural and food products amounted to EUR 240 million in 2006, EUR 424 million in 2010, EUR 468.6 million last year, we expect export to exceed EUR 500 million in 2012, effects from the subsidies, the Minister emphasized, are more than visible.

– Since the start of this year, EUR 33.2 million was paid for vegetable production in agriculture, over EUR 12 million out of which as support to vine growing alone, EUR 9.7 million for arable agricultural land for crops, EUR 5.2 million for fruit growing, … We paid total of EUR 25.5 million for stock breeding this year, EUR 7.3 million out of which for cattle breeding, EUR 3.5 million for production of cow’s, sheep’s and goat’s milk, pig breeding and poultry were provided EUR 2 million each, EUR 1.6 million for beekeeping, Stavreski said.

Million euros were paid as support to organic production, and almost half a million euros were transferred as assistance for insurance premiums, assistance for protection of agricultural land, technical support in agriculture and assistance to stock breeding.

According to Line Minister Ljupco Dimovski, in 2006, Government of the Republic of Macedonia set agriculture as one of the priority sectors. Each year, measures are continuously supplemented and subsidies are continuously increased. He underlined that results therefrom are visible, production is evidently increased, and export is significantly increased.

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