Deliberation of the matter of significant national importance “Rural development report” was held in the Riigikogu today. Reports were by Director of the Institute of Economics and Social Sciences of the Estonian University of Life Sciences, Professor Rando Värnik, the Minister of Agriculture Helir-Valdor Seeder and Chairman of the Rural Affairs Committee Kalvi Kõva.
In Värnik’s words, in rural life in the whole Estonia, a situation should be ensured where the region would be attractive both as a living environment and a place to work in. He explained that different regions have different development potentials and the general aim should be continuation of rural way of life so that people would not move to the centres. As the state is managing rural life, more attention should be paid to the development needs of different regions. Värnik said that rural development is of significant importance not only for rural areas but also for the city. In order to support rural development, it is necessary to integrate also other financial sources and programmes, besides the support measures of the rural development plan. Within the context of the Estonian rural life, it is reasonable to develop diverse enterprise. Priority development of one field is not expedient in a long term perspective. In order that life would go on in the country in Estonia, significantly more choices must be made which would make living in the country available and desirable.
Seeder noted that, by today, Estonian agriculture has reached a new phase in its development, characterised by a rapid development of industrial agriculture, that is, large scale production, and polarisation into large and small producers. The potential of Estonian agriculture is characterised by the fact that, for example, in 2010, agriculture constituted 2% of gross domestic product and nearly 10% of the total export of goods. After accession to the European Union and owing to the subsidies of the common agricultural policy, Estonian agriculture is characterised by a rapid technological development and cultivation of fallow lands. These are positive developments. As a result of all this, the effectiveness of Estonian agriculture and the quality of production has increased significantly while the number of agricultural producers and people employed in agriculture has decreased rapidly and by several times. In twenty years, the number of people employed in Estonian agriculture has decreased by more than seven times, that is, more than 110 000 positions. Seeder mentioned creation of jobs as the greatest problem of Estonian rural life. The Minister stressed that, actually, we increasingly more need an integral policy directed at counties, that is, county cities. In Seeder’s opinion, the administrative reform would not solve all problems of rural life but it certainly would be an important prerequisite for the solution of problems and for manageable governance.
Kõva discussed the factors that influence rural life. He first spoke about the European Common Agricultural Policy. Estonian farmers need to achieve more equal opportunities in comparison with their neighbours in Europe as regards the amounts of single area payment so that the subsidies paid to our farmers would be 90% of the European average. The European Commission envisages that we would reach this by 2028 but, in our opinion, this is obviously a too slow and torpid pace, Kõva underlined. In his words, we must reach it significantly earlier, already during the upcoming financial perspective. Single area payment is an important factor or capital which significantly influences our rural life. Naturally, living conditions and infrastructure are also very important in the development of a rural area because lower salary must be compensated by the quality and organisation of living environment. Aside from the state, local governments have also a very important role to play, Kõva noted.
Kalev Kotkas, Aivar Kokk, Heimar Lenk and Andre Sepp took the floor during the debate.
The Riigikogu Press Service
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