Inclusive employment

Honey and berries: untapped growth potential in Moldova’s agricultural sector

New ILO research on the honey and berry value chains in the Republic of Moldova reveals how these two sectors can further grow and promote inclusive employment. Honey exports increased 10 times in the past decade. The berry sector has grown to engage up to 100,000 farmers in the past 5 years, most of them being women.

Article | 09 June 2021

Sweetening the potential for decent work: the honey sector

© ILO/Ion Buga

Viorica Anghel became a beekeeper after having received training under an ILO project. Prior to the free course, she had been told that beekeeping was not for women. Nowadays she has her own business and hopes to produce half a ton of honey in 2021 with an estimated income of USD 2,000. She aims to double that again in 2022.

The Republic of Moldova has a long history of honey production. Despite its relatively small size, the sector is growing: the total annual production of honey has doubled over the last 20 years, while the value of exports increased 10 times from 2011 to 2019. Honey is currently the only animal-based product in the country that can be exported to the European Union.

In Moldova, only 8 per cent of the total number of registered apiaries are owned by women, and they are almost completely absent from the professional beekeeping industry. While many more women are involved in the honey sector in other ways, gender stereotypes as well as a lack of financial and non-financial support services hold them back from establishing their own businesses

The new ILO report lists the key constraints ranging from limited access to training, technology and finance, to a lack of product diversification. To address these key market constraints, the ILO suggests upscaling production through improved beekeeping equipment, and access to public subsidy schemes and training. In addition, improving bee health and pollination services, supporting access to markets, diversifying value-added honey products, and promoting greater inclusion for women and persons with disabilities in beekeeping through cooperatives will also help to develop the sector.

Read the report in English and in Romanian

A synergy of growth and employment opportunities: the berry sector

© ILO/Ion Buga

Elena Vetrici has been fascinated by the goji berry and its healing powers for many years. When she discovered that this berry variety was foreign to Moldova, she decided to grow it herself. She got a goji variety certified, and through the establishment of a nursery, began to sell saplings to other farmers. More and more of them started growing goji berries so that they could collaborate and respond to international demand. Today, the group of producers Elena is now leading can provide up to 25 tons of fresh goji berries and 6 tons of dried berries a year. 

Berry production has been increasing in Moldova over the last five years. Up to 100,000 farmers grow berries. Most of the production is on a very small scale in nearby garden plots. It is a source of secondary income. Berries yield a higher profit margin than any other legal crop, which drives the increase in berry farming. Furthermore, the Agency for State Subsidies and Payments in Agriculture offers a state support.  Many Moldovan berry farmers would like to expand their business to new foreign markets. However, most of them produce too little to accommodate international orders.

Women account for 39 per cent of the workforce in the agricultural sector in the country. Estimates suggest that this figure is much higher for the berry sector, ranging from 70 to 75 per cent.

This report identifies key constraints that limit the sustainable development of the berry sector. Moldovan farmers produce low quantities of berries and the low volumes sold are too small to get larger national or international contracts. There are few possibilities for training on berry cultivation in the country, which leads to a lack of technical skills. Finally, the berry sector is missing a specific national strategy that would allow better cooperation among all actors.

To address these constraints, the ILO recommends enhancing farm-level productivity through trainings as well as stronger marketing and sales strategies. Better cooperation among farmers and suppliers, buyers, processors and exporters will also improve conditions for berry producers.

Read the report in English and in Romanian

Both publications were developed within the framework of the project Market Systems Analysis for the honey and berry value chains in Moldova, funded with UK aid from the UK Government in collaboration with the UK’s Good Governance Fund.