One third of Macedonian agricultural land is drowning in weeds, tractors are ineffective, fields are small and fragmented

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The average size of the farms is 1,8-1,9 hectares in contrast to the EU average which is 16,6 hectares. Small agricultural holdings are split into five or more parcels of individual size, some are 500 meters to two kilometers apart, and are even located in different cadastral municipalities.

The Macedonian farmer gets on the tractor, plows a little, then turns off the engine and drives the tractor to the other field, where he continues the procedure. This is how an average day in the working season looks in caricature, for those farmers who have several small fields, which are 500 to 2.000 meters apart, and are even located in different cadastral municipalities!

Moreover, the surfaces are mostly of irregular shape, which complicates the cultivation of the land and limits the use of modern mechanization and production technologies. In Macedonia, the average size of plots in private ownership is 0,32 hectares, and plots in state ownership 0,56 hectares. The average size of the farms is 1,8-1,9 hectares in contrast to the EU average which is 16,6 hectares. Small agricultural holdings are split into five or more plots. And if in our country we are still working exclusively on consolidating plots and which is considered a relatively new process, for European countries, consolidation, which has a 100-year tradition, focuses on afforestation, changing river flows and protection of archaeological areas.

Consolidation, according to FAO, implies not only the consolidation of land, but also the increase of holdings, and it is done where it is determined that it is necessary and possible, not in every village. In doing so, special care is taken to ensure that all legal obligations are respected and observed.

- When we were starting with the consolidation, they told us: "You will never succeed in getting the Macedonians to agree on something." That was one aspect, and the second was related to the lack of trust in the state. "We don't believe you," the farmers said openly. After a long period, the situation on the ground has changed drastically. After seeing the practical aspects of the consolidation and making sure that no one wants to harm them, the farmers changed their minds - FAO experts point out.

The first ten-year strategic period is behind us, and the results are - consolidated about 3.000 hectares out of the estimated 40 to 50.000 hectares, which were given priority. At the moment, the new strategy for consolidation, until 2030, is being prepared.

Experts from FAO treat this process very carefully, in-depth analyzes are done and a lot of discussions are held with the plot owners.

- No one wants and will not harm the landowners, and some of them already know this very well. The rest, through practical consolidation, made sure of it. And they saw that all the fields have infrastructure - roads, drainage and irrigation channels, that the land has improved in quality (among other things, pedological and soil analyzes are done), its price is increasing - its shape is better, it is bigger, suitable for bigger production and modernization, which automatically means that it is sold more expensively. Now they no longer ask "why we don't have a road to the fields or drainage", but "why there aren't a few hydrants", which is great and a big progress - FAO explains.

Earlier, there was no legal framework for modern consolidation at all.

- The mentality of the farmers who were previously "forced" to collectivization, communalization, and districting is definitely changing. That is why they enter into discussions about land reforms with reservation, which is completely understandable. During the consolidation, it is not only important that the land be consolidated, but it should be productive, with modernized, competitive production. This especially applies to our upcoming membership in the EU, where we will face serious competitiveness - assessed by the Ministry of Education and Culture and the FAO.

Otherwise, the average rate of land abandonment in North Macedonia is 32 percent, with a large variation between regions. This means that one third of the fields are not used and are drowning in weeds. Emigration is the reason that most such areas are in the far east and far west of the country.

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