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The Organic Food Basket

Bulgaria is being called the organic food basket of Europe and those who are familiar with the country will undoubtedly have heard of Bulgarian “feta” cheese (which in Bulgarian is called sirene - pronounced seerenay) and the praise lavished on this internation al standard top quality product.

Everyone who has visited Bulgaria always comments on how fresh and tasty the food is, particularly the wonderful fruit and vegetables. However, few realize that Bulgaria is perfectly placed to become the organic food basket of Europe and ironically much of this is due to the post-communism agricultural crisis.

 

In every town you will find markets where fresh, organic produce is available. Additionally, each town will always have at least one greengrocer where you can get fresh organic fruit and veg every single day.

So, no wonder the food’s so good! Additionally, roses, mint, lavender and herbs are all major international exports for the country sought by others at premium prices across the world.

After communism the Bulgarian agriculture crisis began in 1990 when the existing co-operatives were disbanded and the long slow process of land restoration began. Now, some 1.8 million small farmers cultivate only 15% of Bulgaria’s arable land. Before communism and since they have regained their land they have been unable to afford pesticides and fertilisers, so this land has remained organic.


It is estimated that no less than 80 percent of Bulgaria’s farmland is suitable for organic farming, which is significantly higher than the UK, where organic farmland accounts for under 10 per cent.


Also, huge tracts of the land have remained fallow, again suiting totally organic produce. The climate in Bulgaria, together with cheap labour costs and lack of use of pesticides over the last 15 years plus has created a highly favourable climate for organic farming.

Prior to EU entry in 2007, these small farmers had to rely on interest from importers within the Eastern bloc but EU accession has opened up all of the western European markets as well enabling them to export their organic wines, mint, roses, cheeses, honey, wild fruits and the highly sought after natural Bulgarian yoghurt.

 

Agriculture is an important 'industry' in the country and accounts for about 13% of Bulgaria’s gross domestic product, employing some 24% of the country’s workforce with over half of its surface made up of arable land. Grain products top the list of agricultural crops, closely followed by tobacco and vines.

Some of the farmers now belong to the co-operative 'Biobulgaria', which is supported by the Swiss Agency for Development and Co-operation. The agency has been involved in Bulgaria for nearly a decade and has already spent millions of Swiss Francs helping farmers find their feet.

 


 

Bulgaria now has its own agency for organic farming so that it can have its produce certified in its own country as proof of top quality on the domestic and international market.


It is interesting to note that after all these years, many Bulgarian farmers have naturally produced organic produce as a result of real hardship but happily are now reaping the rewards of their sensible farming methods.

These organic products are not only fashionable, they are, importantly very healthy - and, for the Bulgarian farmers who have been left out in the cold for so long, the end consumer is prepared to pay a higher price for such natural and healthy foodstuffs.

Organic Food Prices in Bulgaria May 2012

  • Whole Free Range Chicken 7 leva for 1.6kg
  • Fillet Beef 5.32 leva for 376g
  • Roasting Beef 5 leva for 650g
  • Carrots 1.30 leva per kg
  • Cucumber whole 1.99 leva
  • Tomatoes on the vine 2.50 leva per kg
  • Baby New Potatoes 1.20 leva per kg
  • Eggs 25 stotinki each