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Economy

The Moldovan fruit farmers’ paradox – anybody can produce but only few chosen can sell

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The Republic of Moldova is an agrarian country. The most important agricultural activities in Moldova – the production of walnuts, grapes and some other fruits is, though, squeezed between the political interests and the weak regulations regarding export monopolies establishment and preference of imported products on the internal market. The small Moldovan farms remain outside the big business, being marginalized, misinformed and discriminated when it comes to selling their products inside or outside the Republic of Moldova.

The official data

During a press release of the National Office of Vine and Wine in Moldova, it was communicated that the 2017-2018 season recorded the earliest grapes harvest in the last 40 years. At the same time, the grapes production was 15% higher compared to the average of the last 8 years. According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), in the period January-June 2018, the grape exports from the Republic of Moldova increased by 32.1% compared to the same period of 2017. Moldova exported grapes to Romania – 51.9% of the total export, the Russian Federation – 35% and Belarus – 3.7%.

The National Agency for Food Safety (NAFS) announced a raise in 2018 of  the production and export of Moldovan fruits such as apples, plums, peaches, apricots and cherries.  According to the provided data, 70.6 thousand tons of apples from 2018 year’s harvest were exported, that being three times more than in the same period of 2017. A significant increase was also recorded in the export of plums – 31 thousand tons of plums have reached the foreign markets. The NAFS talked about the export of fruits to the usual for Moldova international markets, such as the Russian market, and discovering new markets such as Iraq and Bangladesh.

The European Business Association reported a quantity of 10 thousand tons of walnuts, exported by 30 companies entitled to do the exports to France Germany or Austria. There are 29,000 hectares of walnut trees in the Republic of Moldova. In 2017, the walnuts production was 18.7 thousand tons. The main countries where the Moldovan walnuts are exported are the EU countries, Ukraine, Turkey and Russia.

Behind the curtain

Several journalistic investigations performed by few independent media institutions from Moldova, such as Ziarul de Gardă and Jurnal TV, have uncovered the ties between certain family members of the former Prime Minister of Moldova – Pavel Filip, and several companies that have an important role on the walnuts and dried fruits markets. The investigations were launched after the allegations of existing a personal interest of the former Prime Minister in maintaining a monopolistic situation on the walnuts market. While checking  the reason of a dramatic decrease of walnuts selling price on the market, the journalists have found a scheme of collecting and centralizing of walnut production by few collector firms that transported them afterwards to “Monicol” SRL – a company owned by father of the Filip’s daughter-in-law. The company has a market share of about 20% and the government’s protection in their activity. The allegations were denied by Pavel Filip, but no financial information regarding the company’s activity was made public.

Svetlana Lungu, the Head of Plant Protection and Health Directorate of NAFS, explained that the process of obtaining the necessary papers for exporting walnuts is not so hard. “In the EU, the requirements are minimal. Namely, it is necessary to obtain the phytosanitary certificate for the export of products of plant origin. The registration of the exporter and the producer is required by NAFS, as well as owning or renting a storage space by the exporter and signing a contract with the producer,” declared Lungu. Therefore, as long as the process is standardized, why the Moldovan walnuts are officially exported by only 30 companies and a monopoly is established on the market unofficially? Maybe because there are some political and personal interests of ‘filtering’ the companies authorized to export.

Walnuts exporting is a profitable business in Moldova. According to TV8, one kilogram of Moldovan walnuts costs 23.94 euro on the Belgian store shelves (about 462 lei). In Moldova, one kilogram of walnuts could reach 150/200 lei on the market, but from producers it is bought for 60/80 lei per kilogram.

The situation for the grapes and fruits producers is not much better. Few weeks ago, a campaign was initiated by a grapes’ producer, Diana Crudu, that advised people not to buy flowers for the International Women’s Day, but a box of grapes or apples.

“There are over 7 thousand tons of grapes in the  Moldovan warehouses. If they are not sold in the next two or three weeks, these grapes will have to be thrown away. The wine factories do not have the capacity to process and storage such a large quantity of grapes. This is the most dramatic situation faced by table grape manufacturers in the last 15 years,” said Diana in an interview for RFE/RL.

The producers are forced to sell the grapes on the local market for 3 to 6 lei per kilogram. At the same time, consumers are offered the possibility to buy imported grapes for 80 lei per kilogram in the Moldovan supermarkets.

The Ministry of Agriculture representative, Iurie Mudrea, declared that no compensation for unsold products can be provided. “The business always involves risk. Calculate, my dear, solve the problem, think about it at the beginning of year, put some efforts. Even Russia no longer accepts low quality, we need high quality for all products. Here we have to start: big volumes, high level of quality and a lot of effort,” declared Mudrea for TV8.

The Ministry of Agriculture claimed that apples could be purchased directly from producers and distributed free of charge in schools. At the same time, the “qualitative and nicely packed” apples could be sold in the country’s retail shops, and the fruit quality monitoring infrastructure could be developed. A lot of things could be done. But will they?

The real solution came from Moldovan people. An event organized by the Klumea Association encouraged Moldovan people to become  solidary with the grapes’ producers and come on Sunday, February 24th, at a bazaar in the city centre of Chisinau to buy a box of domestic grapes, with only 5 lei per kilogram.  The initiative has a suggestive name: ‘Take Moldova home’.

Source: Facebook

Featured photo: worldpulse.com

Important

The desperate call of Moldovan doctors and the reasons why medical system can’t resist too long

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The first medical employee from the Republic of Moldova, Ecaterina Litvinschi – a 79-year-old woman who died because of coronavirus – was buried these days. The woman worked as a medical emergency doctor at at a National Center for Emergency Medicine for about 35 years. According to her relatives’ declarations, she was buried on the edge of a Chisinau cemetery, in a special area where those contaminated with coronavirus were expected to be buried:

sector 277, tomb no. 1

“Historically, those who end their days by suicide were buried on the far side or outside the cemetery. Is that an “honour” attached to a hero doctor?” wondered a relative of the deceased doctor.

Also, the relatives of the medical emergency doctor mentioned that the hospital administration, where the victim was previously hospitalised, insisted to not disclose the fact that Ecaterina was infected being on call to an already infected person, without special equipment and without being warned by the emergency service 112.

Not enough protective measures for medical staff

Out of the currently confirmed 298 cases of infections with COVID-19, 60 are medical workers, according to the information provided by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Social Protection. Moreover, until two days ago, authorities refused to present information on cases of COVID-19 infection among medical workers, giving assurances that doctors have protective equipment and urging journalists not to seek sensations.

The National Ombudsman Mihail Cotorobai made a request addressed to Prime Minister Ion Chicu, in which he informed about the intention of a high number of doctors to submit letter of resignation due to the lack of the protective equipment, which would provide safe working conditions to the medical personnel.

Mihail Cotorobai asked to urgently identify additional funds to ensure protective measures against COVID-19 contagion, both at the level of hospital medical institutions and at the level of primary health care centres. “The recommended measures are imperative both to ensure the patients’ right to high-quality medical services, as well as to ensure safety of the employees of the health system who are put at major risk of contagion due to non-working conditions,” the Ombudsman said.

Currently, six medical institutions in the country are being involved in the treatment of coronavirus patients. Next week other district and municipal medical institutions will be delegated to hospitalise infected patients. The authorities announced that a triage centre is prepared to be organised at the Moldexpo Exhibition Center. By Wednesday, it will be fully equipped, including with 700 beds.

“The number of confirmed cases is increasing, we reiterate the call to citizens to be very cautious. We are sure that if we follow the rules, we will not allow a jump in coronavirus cases and we will have the capacity to handle the situation. This gloomy scenario can be avoided if we are supportive. It is clear that we will overcome this situation, and the authorities and citizens will make the necessary efforts,” stated the prime minister during a press conference.

The announcement of the prime minister sounded optimistic. More and more desperate calls appear online though, being posted by journalists, politicians, artists, regarding the precarious situation in the medical institutions of the Republic of Moldova. Most of them are made anonymously, as medical workers fear to lose their jobs.

The member of the Parliament Radu Marian posted on social media, on March 28, a message sent to him by a person whose mother works as a nurse at the municipal hospital in Balti (one of the hospitals involved in the treatment of coronavirus patients).

“My mother is scared to go to work. She receives one mask for 24 hours and 2 pairs of gloves without other equipment. They write something else on the paper. It’s like fighting on a battlefield without any weapons. […] I wrote to you as a child who is afraid of losing his mother because of the incompetence of the authorities and because of the situation in the hospitals of Moldova,” is said in the message.

According to the data presented by the authorities, during this weekend, there were reported the most cases of infection per day since the beginning of the epidemic in Moldova.

Not enough resources

Doctor in medical sciences, specialist in Intensive Care, Tihon Moraru called on the authorities to take urgent measures on acquiring the necessary equipment for managing the patients in need for intensive care. He mentioned that in order to be able to provide the necessary treatment to 50-100 critical patients, there is a need of at least 30 to 40 high performance mechanical ventilators, produced in the USA, Germany or Japan.

“I am afraid that we are late by 3-4 weeks, it will be very difficult for the equipment to be brought to the country. This can only be achieved by the authorities of our country and as quickly as possible. […] I believe that the maximum number of hospitalisations for the serious and critical patients will be between the middle of April and the beginning of May, which is why this devices of vital necessity must be brought to the country as urgently as possible. […] They are very necessary for the intensive care units of the country, especially those of the district hospitals of the country, where these devices are outdated,” specified Tihon Moraru.

The Moldovan authorities announced that 200 thousand protective screens and 500 filter masks were purchased in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the purchased protective screens represent only 10% of the announced necessary quantity, while the acquired amount of filter masks cover 25% of the health system current needs, reported ZdG.

Being contacted by ZdG, the manager of the company responsible for acquiring the protective goods said that, at the moment, the company does not have the products in stock, while importing them from China is a complicated procedure that will surely result in delivery delays, given the pandemic conditions.

Not enough tested persons

Another 32 people were lastly confirmed as being infected with the new type of coronavirus, after 246 samples were processed in the laboratory of the National Agency for Public Health, announced the sanatateinfo.md portal. That amounts a total of 5 324 persons who were tested, including family doctors and mayors. Given the exponential growth rate of the contagion demonstrated in other countries, the number of tested persons in the Republic of Moldova can be concluded as being way too low.

Enough Government assurances that “all is kept under control”

For purchasing 200 000 protective screens and 500 000 filter masks, the Government of the Republic of Moldova approved the allocation of 36 million lei from the reserve fund. “It is a measure to ensure protective equipment for the next period. We have enough equipment, but we are preparing for the second half of April and May,” said Prime Minister Ion Chicu.

At the same time, some district hospitals already have taken decisions of replacing at least a part of their old equipment using their institution budget or by applying to international funds and calling for foreign governments’ donations of protective goods, disinfectants, tests, etc.

Photo: Facebook| Ala Nemerenco

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Diaspora

Coronavirus: Charter flights are organised to pick up Moldovans from abroad

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An official notification of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and European Integration (MFAEI) informed yesterday that exceptional charter flights for repatriating Moldovan citizens who are in a difficult situation while staying abroad will be organised.

“According to the Provision no. 6 of the Commission for Exceptional Situations, the MFAEI will coordinate the process of repatriation of the citizens of the Republic of Moldova with the charter flights. The diplomatic and consular missions will update the information about people being in a difficult situation abroad, giving priority to children, students, persons undergoing medical treatment, and other categories of disadvantaged citizens,” is stated in the notification.

Citizens of Moldova who are interested in returning home are able to register online on the web and Facebook pages of Moldova’s embassies and consulates from their host country. The list of missions can be found here.

Also, the Ministry informed that the priority destinations for charter flights will be proposed for approval to the Commission for Exceptional Situations that authorises the flights.

Exceptional charter travel tickets can be purchased directly from the flight operators. Updated information on the authorised charter flights can be found on the official page of the Civil Aeronautical Authority of the Republic of Moldova here. Today, for example the following flights were operated:

  • Chisinau-Moscow (Domodedovo)-Chisinau;
  • Chisinau- London- Chisinau.

Upon arrival in the capital city, passengers must undergo the medical evaluation procedure and will be placed in self-isolation for 14 days.

Photo: Suhyeon Choi |Unsplash

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Society

How does coronavirus spread? Churches can easily become a contagion epicentre

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While WHO highly recommends to avoid crowded places as much as possible during this period, and while several countries have reported churches as the focal point of their major coronavirus outbreaks, Moldovan churches still oppose the Governments quarantine measures and continue to encourage people to attend their religious ceremonies.

Today, another 22 new cases of COVID-19 were recorded in Moldova. That means a total of 199 cases. Prime minister Ion Chicu announced in a press conference, after the meeting of the Single Command Center for Crisis Management Caused by COVID-19 Virus, that 20 people were confirmed as being infected after returning from a trip to Poceaev Lavra –  a monastery from Ukraine. Among them are two priests who tested positive.

“The Ministry of Internal Affairs gave clear instructions not to allow religious services to be conducted with the parishioners participation. If these ceremonies take place, sanctions provided by the law will be applied,” declared the head of the Executive.

Last weekend, churches were still allowed to conduct open space ceremonies in compliance with all precaution rules. The process of religious services was supervised by the police. Policemen reported, over the weekend, that out of 1062 churches registered in Moldova, 382 churches respected the rules and conducted the services outside and 305 religious institutions either stopped the activity or the ceremonies took place without parishioners. The rest of them simply ignored all precautionary measures and continued to pretend that there is no pandemic situation in the country.

The Facebook page of a religious institution from Chisinau posted several images from the Holy Liturgy, where both people and priests wore protective masks. The service took place outside and those present were staying at a distance from each other. Still, how efficient are these measures if the Eucharist provides using the same spoon by all present people, as per Eastern Orthodox Church traditions?

Source: Facebook| St. Dumitru Church in Chisinau

“I noticed that, unfortunately, the church servants do not show respect first of all to the doctors who repair the errors of the whole society. I very much hope that none of those priests will become infected and reach the medical institutions, because our doctors will help them, but not using the same ‘spoon’ for all,” declared Ion Chicu.

Source: Facebook| St. Dumitru Church in Chisinau

Earlier, on March 13, the Moldovan authorities announced that all religious ceremonies have to be ceased for a period of 14 days. However, the Moldovan Orthodox Church representatives encouraged the religious institutions from all over the country to continue their activity, defying any rules imposed. No enforcing measures were taken by authorities, but only mentioning about the sanctions application.

Thus, there is one more important matter to be questioned: how many epicentres of coronavirus outbreaks have already been created by the Moldovan churches and how many will they still create until understanding that the situation is more than critical?

Photo: Facebook| St. Dumitru Church in Chisinau

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