Bulgaria can be independent only in food production, according to the big agribusinessman
– Why are you giving up the emblem of your life, Mr. Kumchev?
– I took this decision very hard, I did not wake up one morning with the idea of destroying the business card of my life. I thought about it for a long time. Even when we entered the European Union, with all the flaws of the agreement, it was promised that in 2017 the subsidies for agricultural producers would be equalized for all member countries. This did not happen, and even in the new program period – 2020-2027, it is predicted that the subsidies for the new member states will reach 80% of those for the old ones only in the last year. However, I am sure that this will not happen either. So the environment we operate in is not really competitive. On the one hand, there is the inequality between European countries, on the other – the way in which money is distributed in our country.
Already 8 years ago, I patented a methodology for the distribution of subsidies,
which would guarantee fair rules and an end to theft. I have offered it to all parties. There is no important politician who did not come to me in Trilistnik. Everyone agrees that this is the way, but no one is taking practical steps to implement it. For the last 6 years, my sons have been managing the farm and at one point they said to me: “Dad, you may be crowned as the King of Apples, but we are only putting money into this business and we are losing. What are we doing?”
– Can you indicate specific parameters of subsidies in other European countries and in our country?
– I will give an example of Poland, which is the largest producer of apples in Europe. Already 5-6 years ago, when the Russian embargo was introduced, Poland began to lose, because until that moment it exported 1 million tons of apples to Russia annually. Then Polish politicians go to Brussels and ask: What do we do with these apples that already remain in Europe? And they make a 25 eurocents subsidy per kilogram from the EU and the government of Poland grants even more. That is, 50 eurocents per kilogram, or 1 lev. If we, as producers, are also given a subsidy of BGN 1 each, I will not sell the apples, I will give them away. And now the Poles import apples to us at a price between 40 and 45 cents per kilogram. Of these, only the packaging costs about 15 cents, the transport – 5 cents.
By what economic logic would a colleague from Poland sell apples for 20-25 cents.
per kilogram? This would be absurd if it were not for the financial injection from the European Union.
There are other problems and I reached my boiling point 2 years ago when I went into a hypermarket of one of the big chains that we also supply fruit and vegetables to and I came across the “Italian Apple Festival” poster. Has anyone somewhere seen a Bulgarian apple festival? And what should I see at the stand?
The Italian apple from the festival is a small one, it does not meet any standards, but its price is BGN 4 per kg. Ours are twice as big, we offer them for BGN 1.20, but the hypermarkets don’t want them. I picked up the phone to one of the chain bosses and said, “What’s going on? I bought an Italian apple and gave 85 cents, and she – as much as a walnut. Is there a Bulgarian who would give BGN 4 for a kilogram of such fruits? He shouts: “No, but the company’s headquarters told us that last year’s harvest in Italy and Poland was large, and until the refrigerators are emptied of the old apples, Bulgarian apples will only be sold in bags, i.e. sixth quality.” How to fight the European Union and all the corporations?
– We Bulgarians believe that our fruits and vegetables are the tastiest. Is it true?
– Yes, and if there are Bulgarian and imported fruits and vegetables on the stands at the same prices, customers will not reach for the foreign, no matter how polished it is. Ours are the tastiest not because we are the greatest agronomists, but we have soils with natural fertility, you don’t inject into the root whatever you can think of, we have both sun and water. When these 3 factors are present, no one can bring you down. And here is the moment to say that the only thing in which Bulgaria can be an independent country is food production. In nothing else. We are dependent on oil, gas, external factors. But we can also produce food, and quality food, ourselves. And
we can trade food for gas
But there must be incentives for producers, that’s the first thing.
– In our country, there is a lot of talk about how privileged the so-called grebrari are. Is this the biggest injustice in the allocation of subsidies?
– Colleagues are not to blame. If I were a spy, what responsibility would I bear that this is the policy of Europe? But it is a fact that when we entered the EU in 2007, 40% of the food we consumed was Bulgarian. Now they are 15-20 percent. And a lot of money was poured in, BGN 3 billion is given every year, but a lot of it is stolen, areas are drawn without being cultivated, just to get subsidies. The model as a whole is flawed – the official EU gazette has published breakdowns of what each member country will receive until 2027. Greece has a similar arable area to ours and will receive 14 billion euros on the payment per hectare measure alone. And Bulgaria – 4. But their government has found a way to negotiate this money, and our politicians cannot hit the table.
– Do you expect more farmers to give up and come to barren fertile lands?
– Until the land is abandoned – hardly, but the fruit growers give up en masse. Both along the Danube and in Karnobatsko, orchards are being uprooted all over the country – apples, cherries, peaches, you name it. I also had a plum orchard in Gelemenovo, I sold it, and I am uprooting the apple orchard.
I will grow vegetables, they earn faster,
and an orchard needs 5-6 years to start bearing fruit.
– So we will mainly eat imported fruit?
– Yes, and bad food is the main reason for the low life expectancy in our country. And we are the sickest nation. And in Bulgaria there are people who want to engage in agriculture. But the money must be distributed fairly and a predictable environment ensured. I recently heard that a colleague was convicted of exploiting the labor of his own child. And the whole family works in agriculture. I was spinning tobacco at the age of 5 and I was the best in the neighborhood. What happened to me? Such nonsense must be put to an end and people must be stimulated to devote themselves to agriculture, but not only to the production of grain. Because if this happens, in a village where there are currently 8 children, after 2-3 years there will be 10-11. A second shop or a cafe will also appear. And then we will know that the trend has started to reverse.
Krasimir Kumchev has been engaged in agriculture for 40 years. He graduated from the Agricultural University in Plovdiv. In the 1980s, he managed TKZS, which managed the largest apple orchard in the world – 14 thousand decares, between the villages of Rogosh, Trilistnik and Skutare. After the collapse of the socialist farms, he began to grow apples on lands he bought, and this became the emblem of his life, although he also produced vegetables. He calls the production of apples “the aerobatics of fruit growing”. A few days ago, however, he announced that he was giving up this activity after producing 300 million kg of apples.