Country Listing

Romania Table of Contents




The land itself is Romania's most valuable natural resource. All but the most rugged mountainous regions sustain some form of agricultural activity. In 1989 more than 15 million hectares-- almost two-thirds of the country's territory--were devoted to agriculture. Arable land accounted for over 41 percent, pasturage about 19 percent, and vineyards and orchards some 3 percent of the total land area.

Romania's soils are generally quite fertile. The best for farming are the humus-rich chernozems (black earth), which account for roughly one-fifth of the country's arable land. Chernozems and red-brown forest soils predominate in the plains of Walachia, Moldavia, and the Banat region--all major grain-growing areas. Soils are thinner and less humus-rich in the mountains and foothills, but they are suitable for vineyards, orchards, and pasturage.

The area under cultivation has increased steadily over the centuries as farming has encroached on forest and pasture areas, marshes have been drained, and irrigation has been brought to the more arid regions. By late 1986, Romania had extended irrigation to roughly one-third of its arable land, and a major campaign had been conceived to drain the Danube Delta and develop it into a vast agro-industrial complex of some 1,440 square kilometers. The area of arable land grew incrementally from about 9.4 million hectares in 1950 to slightly more than 10 million hectares in the late 1980s.

Another strategy to gain arable land was the controversial program of systematization of the countryside. This policy, first proposed in the early 1960s but seriously implemented only after a delay of some twenty years, called for the destruction of more than 7,000 villages and resettlement of the residents into about 550 standardized "agro-industrial centers," where the farm population could enjoy the benefits of urban life. Only those villages judged economically viable by the authorities were to be retained. Through eradication of villages, fence rows, and reportedly even churches and cemeteries, the government aimed to acquire for agriculture some 348,000 hectares of land.

At the very time the government was attempting to increase the area of arable land, countervailing pressures were exerted by urban development, which consumed large tracts for residential and industrial construction. In May 1968, a law was passed to prohibit the diversion of farmland to nonagricultural uses without the approval of the central government. The law reversed the previous policy of assigning no value to land in calculating the cost of industrial and housing projects. It did not, however, curtail the ideologically driven policy of industrializing the countryside, and some of the country's most fertile farmland was lost to development.

Postwar farming practices took a heavy toll on the country's soil resources. It was estimated in the late 1980s that because of unwise cultivation methods, 30 percent of the arable land had suffered serious erosion. Moreover, residual agricultural chemicals had raised soil acidity in many areas.

Data as of July 1989