Impact program Bulgaria
Bulgaria is a country with a rich history in the production and export of vegetables and fruits. Its temperate climate and rich soils provide favorable conditions for fruit and vegetable production. However, nowadays when it comes to fruit and vegetables it is a net importer and there is a strong need for its own production and facilities.
Societal and economical challenges
The growing demand for locally-produced food presents an opportunity for Bulgaria to revitalize its agricultural sector. Nevertheless, it faces serious challenges, such as depopulation, poverty, and an aging population in most rural areas. That is why there is a strong need for activities that involve young people, newcomers, and second-generation farmers. There’s also a shortage of skilled labor in the horticulture sector, and the Bulgarian horticulture industry requires more producers with an entrepreneurial spirit and a cooperative mindset. Additionally, climate change poses a significant challenge to Bulgarian agriculture, with severe droughts, late spring frosts, and hailstorms affecting crop yields. Lastly, the sector uses outdated technologies and varieties, with modern/foreign varieties often not tested for the local environment. To improve the competitiveness of Bulgarian agricultural products, there’s also a need to improve post-harvest handling and logistics. In conclusion, Bulgaria has the local conditions to double its production but lacks the right capacity, technology, and knowledge to move forwards towards a sustainable horticulture sector.
The Bulgaria Sustainable Fruit and Vegetable Ecosystem program has the potential to solve many of these issues, while also doubling production, and improving education and research, and opening new markets. The program can help us develop a healthy and sustainable Bulgarian fruit and vegetable ecosystem, using Dutch technology, products, and knowledge.
The program will build on the knowledge gained in other NLWorks programs:
• Tailored tech: significant improvements can be made with cost-efficient, proven technologies.
• Stepping stone model: the return on investment should be made clear for all technology and variety improvements, and several options should be presented for incremental improvements.
• Clustering and hubs: using the strengths of other sectors to boost the fruit and vegetable ecosystem, and using regional hubs for common activities (post-harvest, research, demonstration).
The solution will be centered around different building blocks with a broader focus on growing Bulgarian fruit and vegetable production:
• A pilot and/or demonstration facility (at a company or university) for integrated business solutions and showcasing Dutch solutions
• Professionalizing producer and market organizations
• Managing the post-harvest process
• Research and education in the whole value chain
• Positioning and opening markets
To achieve its goals, Bulgaria is eager to cooperate with the Netherlands and Prime Minister Rutte discussed the Dutch willingness to collaborate with Bulgaria in a meeting with the last Bulgarian government. A high-level Bulgarian delegation visited the Netherlands in June 2022 to learn more about innovative technologies, practices, and cooperation models in greenhouses. On a political level, there is a commitment to work together on the ambition to double Bulgaria’s fruit and vegetable production in 5 years.
Moreover, the Dutch horticulture sector employs many Bulgarians, and many Bulgarians study in the Netherlands. The program can explore how the above can be used to facilitate knowledge exchange.