PR – Current Situation And Perspective Of The Horticultural Farms In Bulgaria – Case In The Plovdiv Region
Agriculture/horticulture has traditionally been an important sector in the economy of Bulgaria. In the last two-three decades, agriculture has changed dramatically due to factors including economic reform from a centrally planned economy to a free market economy, political conflicts between the governing parties, agricultural reform, inefficient governmental decisions, poor legislation, lack of capital for investments, de-population of rural areas and the accession process towards the European Union (EU). This paper reviews the structural changes in Bulgarian agriculture since the period of Communism began (1944) and discusses the current situation for horticultural farms of different sizes in the Plovdiv region of Bulgaria. The respondents identified their cropping structure and land ownership patterns together with their marketing structure. Farm managers’ future vision is also discussed. The small-scale farms (less than 2 ha) were mainly subsistence farms that were primarily involved in vegetable production and their farmers (most often the land owners), perceived farming as a way of living and surviving in the transition towards a free market economy and joining the EU. The ‘medium’ farms (2-10 ha) were transitional and working under pressure for either survival or expansion. They mainly produced annual crops (vegetable and other agricultural crops) for the local market. The ‘big’ farms (farms over 10 ha) were more market and business orientated and were aiming at economic viability within the unstable and competitive environment. Together with their annual crops they also grew some perennials (fruits and grapes). Recent Bulgarian Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) reports indicate that the number of farms over 10 ha has been increasing slowly and will likely represent the future of farming in Bulgaria. The dynamic external environments in Bulgaria over the last three-four decades did not provide stable conditions for farm modernisation, land expansion or establishment of new orchards and vineyards. Despite the difficult economic environment of the country, it can be argued that the horticultural farms have significant potential due to favourable natural and weather conditions together with the tradition of growing horticultural crops that has existed for centuries. Joining the EU will present new challenges and opportunities for the successful and sustainable future development of farm businesses in Bulgaria.
Keywords: horticultural farms, farm characteristics, farm marketing, SWOT analysis, Bulgarian agriculture.