Veselka Vasileva – expert in Organic Farming at the Cultivation Department with the Ministry of Agriculture and Food, in an interview with Radio FOCUS’s morning broadcast Good morning, Bulgaria
Host: Minister Miroslav Naydenov is going to open today the Bulgarian counter at the international exhibition Green Week 2013 in Berlin. For a second year in a row, Bulgaria is going to pay special attention and present its organic products. Ms. Vasileva, what would be Bulgaria’s presentation at the Green Week 2013 expo? Veselka Vasileva: As you already mentioned, the Minister of Agriculture and Food Dr. Naydenov is going to officially open the Bulgarian counter at the biggest international exposition for products from the field of food industry, agriculture and horticulture, which is held in Berlin. We expect the Bulgarian counter to be visited by Ms. Ilse Aigner, German Federal Minister of Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection. This year, our counter will be occupying 140 square meters. Its open design would provide us better contact with the visitors. The official opening of the exposition is today, January 18, and it will stay open until January 27, as by tradition, over 900,000 people will be visiting the expo every single day.
Host: What would be offered by the Bulgarian producers in Berlin? Veselka Vasileva: During this year’s Green Week, we will focus on the organic products and organic production. The organic section of the Bulgarian counter is going to present products from members of the Bulgarian Association of Organic Farmers. Among the presented products would be: baked and peeled long fleshy peppers, pepper relish, chili peppers, flour, bran, sunflower oil, vinegar, organic wine, organic aronia juice, jams and other products. Besides the organic products, Bulgarian producers will also offer traditional Bulgarian products, such as the white brined cheese, wine, meat sausages, products made from the Bulgarian oil-yielding rose, honey and apian products.
Host: Now, let us focus on the organic products. To what extent are people interested in Bulgarian products? Veselka Vasileva: The interest in Bulgarian products is big, especially when speaking of consumers from Western Europe and all over the world. Bulgaria is a traditional producer and importer of high-quality organic certified honey, teas, spices, jams and confitures, fresh fruits and vegetables, tomatoes, cucumbers, gherkins, grapes, raspberries, strawberries, yoghurt and white brined cheese. Our products are being exported to Germany, Netherlands, Great Britain, the Czech Republic, Austria, Poland and Switzerland. USA and Japan are very much interested in the organic Bulgarian rose oil.
Host: Is the production of organic products on Bulgarian territory increasing? Veselka Vasileva: The production of organic products is closely related to the consumption of organic products, therefore, I suggest us to begin with the consumption. Over the past few years, the consumption of organic products has increased in European and worldwide significance. We have calculated that the organic food market amounts to over EUR 20 billion a year, which represents over 1.5% of the entire food market share. The European countries, which register the biggest organic food and drink sales, are Germany, France, England, Italy and Spain. Over the past decade, the production, naturally, has considerably increased. Currently, about 5% of all rural areas in EU and over 2% of the farms are certified as organic ones. The EU member states with the largest areas of organic agricultural lands are Spain, Italy, Germany, England and France. In Bulgaria, organic producers aspire to follow the world tendencies for expanding the agricultural lands and increasing the production. This process is mainly provoked by the interest in the organic production on the European and world market. The most preferred plants for cultivation are the grain and wheat, industrial crops and plantations of perennial plants. This has been the trend over the last few years. From the wheat and grain cultivations we mainly grow wheat, corn, barley and rye. We are also interested in growing some nontraditional cultures, as recently we have been focusing on growing artichoke and olives-trees. We are very much interested in growing walnut cultures, in view of the fact that they have high gustative qualities, which are familiar to the European market. I am talking about wall-nuts, hazelnuts and almonds, for an instance. The size of ecologically pure areas, from which we pick wild fruits, herbs and mushrooms, is expanding. The organic stock-farming is also developing, the number of bee families is growing, as I already mentioned. Owing to the diversity of the flora, our organic honey has very good gustatory qualities. Therefore, it is highly appreciated on the Western market. From the animals that are part of the organic farming system, we are breeding cows, sheep and goats, we get milk. After being processed, the milk turns into yoghurt, white brined cheese and yellow cheese. It is important to be noted that this specific sector is famous with its fast growth. The trend for agricultural land expansion in this sector would probably continue. The matter referring to healthy foods and stable use of natural resources is going to concern larger groups of people in both Bulgaria and the European Union.
Host: What is the number of organic food operators on the territory of Bulgaria? Veselka Vasileva: We are extremely delighted by the facts that we have discovered. Currently, the organic food operators on Bulgarian territory number 1,000. New organic producers are occurring every day, which, as I already mentioned, is something very good and makes us very happy.