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Romania

Procurement and Distribution

State farms, like other socialist enterprises after the implementation of the New Economic and Financial Mechanism, were in theory self-financed and self-managed concerns that were expected to earn a profit while delivering assigned quantities of output to the state. In reality, few state farms in the 1980s could turn a profit, because the government's procurement prices were consistently lower than production costs. Cooperatives and private farmers, too, had large state-imposed quotas to fill even before satisfying their own food requirements. A 1984 decree specified the quantity of production to be delivered to the state by farmers. For example, potato growers were required to deliver three tons per hectare of land cultivated, and dairy farmers had to turn over 800 liters of milk per cow. To ensure compliance with the compulsory quotas, Ceausescu reinstituted the Department for Contracting, Acquiring, and Storing Farm Produce, which had been disbanded in 1956. The state was able to hold sway over individual farmers because it controlled the supply of fertilizers, herbicides, machinery, construction materials, and other inputs. To gain access to these materials, the farmer had to sign delivery contracts. Farmers who failed to comply with the delivery quotas even risked losing their land.

Farmers were permitted to keep for their own use any food remaining after their quotas had been filled, and they could sell the surplus at farmers' markets, where prices in the early 1980s were frequently five times the state procurement prices. A law passed in 1983 required peasants to obtain a license to sell their products on the open market, and it imposed a maximum commodity price of 5 percent above the state retail price. Disappointing harvests in the early 1980s convinced the government to raise procurement prices. As a result, peasant incomes rose by some 12 percent between 1980 and 1985, and farm output increased by about 10 percent. Private farmers in the mid-1980s were obliged to sell to the state 30 percent of the milk, 50 percent of the pork, 12 percent of the potatoes, and comparable shares of other commodities they produced.

Throughout the 1980s, a self-sufficiency program, mandated by the PCR, was in effect. Each village and judet was responsible for producing, to the maximum extent possible, the food needed by the local population. In reality the program was another means for procuring agricultural products for export. Nearly all the production from the three types of farms was confiscated by state procurement agencies, which then returned the amount of food the state deemed sufficient to meet the dietary needs of the village and judet. The quantity returned invariably was less than that delivered. The self-sufficiency program in effect reversed the rationalization of the 1970s, when regions specialized in the crops and livestock best suited to local conditions. Thus a portion of the prime grain lands of Walachia had to be diverted to truck farming, while cool, wet regions of Transylvania attempted to grow sunflowers. The self-sufficiency program seriously impeded the distribution of agricultural products among regions and damaged the domestic marketing system.

The party secretary of each judet was responsible for delivering a specified quota of food to the state. Because these individuals reacted in different ways to the countervailing needs of their constituents and the central authorities, there was considerable regional variation in food supplies. Many party secretaries began understating output figures so that less would have to be delivered to Bucharest and more would be available for the people of their judet. Aware of this regional variation, citizens made food-hunting forays into other judete hoping to find stores better stocked. Ceausescu ordered the militia to monitor the highways and railroads to prevent "illegal" food trafficking.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Food Processing itself was torn between a sense of responsibility to safeguard the interests of the agricultural sector and its obligation to fulfill the regime's mandate to maximize procurement. To resolve these conflicting loyalties, in February 1986 a separate Ministry of Food Industry and Procurement was established.

Data as of July 1989


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