Macedonia - Challenges and opportunities
The agriculture sector is the third largest contributor to Macedonia’s GDP. Almost 20% of the population is engaged in it, but most of these are elderly people - young people have little or no interest or motivation in farming, with its low and uncertain incomes and poor working conditions.
Currently the state is supporting most crops and livestock with per ha and headage payments respectively. If the farms are in conversion or certified as organic the support given is approximately 30% higher. However, there is no specific support for permanent pastures and the overall level of support is gradually decreasing. When combined with the social pressures, the result is undergrazing and abandonment of mountain pastures in particular, with associated biodiversity loss and a deterioration in traditional landscapes. Traditional management of grasslands, and low input, high crop diversity mixed farming has also ceased in other marginal but environmentally valuable areas, while some land has also been lost to urbanisation.
Measures are urgently needed to support HNV farming systems. Some of the existing measures have indirect benefits, such as those for organic farming and the preservation of the indigenous breeds. A particularly positive scheme supports the salaries of shepherds - this could easily be linked to the maintenance of grazing on HNV farmland. In 2010, the first agri-environmental programme for Macedonia was drafted and an IPARD-funded programme of pilot measures for support of environmentally-friendly activities is planned for development in 2011; no such measures have as yet been implemented.