According to Macedonian farmers, quick sale, higher quality and government subsidies are behind the successful 2012-2013 tobacco harvest.
By Goran Trajkov for Southeast European Times in Skopje -- 14/02/13
Macedonia's tobacco farmers are happy with the 2012-2013 harvest. [AFP]
Tobacco production in Macedonia has increased by 5,000 tonnes to date for the 2012-2013 season, which will end in March. According to tobacco farmers, favourable subsidies and good purchase prices for tobacco are behind the high production increase.
Tobacco is an important crop for the Macedonian economy since its quality is widely recognised. It attracts foreign capital and enhances privatisations. The country garners almost 80 million euros annually from tobacco exports.
Tobacco production and trade make up 3.2 percent of the GDP in Macedonia. The tobacco industry equals 3.9 percent of total agricultural production, and 4.1 percent of the sector's employment.
Though tobacco sales in Macedonia end March 15th, so far 25,416 tonnes of tobacco has been purchased -- nearly 98 percent of total annual production, and already almost double what was sold the previous season.
In 2011, 14,000 tonnes of tobacco was sold.
"So far 25,416 tonnes of tobacco is purchased at an average price of 3 euros per kilogram. Macedonia -- one of the largest tobacco producers in the region had a fruitful tobacco harvest and efficient sale, with a good purchasing price and high quality tobacco," Zoran Konjanovski, deputy minister of agriculture, told SETimes.
In addition to revenue from the sales, farmers also receive government financial subsidies of 1 euro per kilogram of tobacco received at purchasing checkpoints.
Rumen Stamenov, director of the state agriculture inspectorate, told SETimes that so far farmers have no problem with the tobacco sale and purchasing price.
"There are no complaints for now, but if there were, we've set up an appeal committee," Stamenov said.
Danco Mileski, president of the farmers' association, said that the farmers do, however, have some issues with the amendments to the law on tobacco, which allows stakeholders to participate in determining the price.
"The law was submitted by the ministry of agriculture, forestry and water management and the prime minister. Before the tobacco sale, a competent committee and the farmers' association will meet so all can have a say in the price," Mileski told SETimes.
Blaze Atanasoski, a tobacco producer in Prilep, told SETimes that tobacco farmers are planning to open a union.
"I and few other tobacco producers, my friends, will form an association that will be competitive with higher subsidies, which will make production materials cheaper," Atanasoski said.
"I'm satisfied because I've never sold tobacco under such a price. If it continues like this, it'll get better," Cane Mitoski, tobacco producer told SETimes.
Prilep Mayor Marjan Risteski said that although the municipality has no say in the price, officials are satisfied with how the ministry and state treat tobacco producers.