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Alexandru Svistunov: „If you bring ice cream to raspberry pickers, the workday passes easily”

Interview with Alexandru Svistunov, GT Svistunov Alexander. The material was prepared as a part of the business support project by the lending company Microinvest.

Hello, Alexander. You grow and sell apples, plums, apricots, quinces, raspberries, cherries. What is in the spotlight right now?

Right now – it’s raspberry season. I own a hectare of raspberries. Last year I picked 4 tons of raspberries from it. A very profitable culture, I can say. If we analyze the previous year, sales started with MDL 17, then MDL 22, and at the end of the season raspberries already cost  MDL35-37 for 1 kilo. This year, I purchased another 30 ares of land. So, I work all the day on field. I brought the workers ice cream and cold water for lunch. The harvest is rich. So, less than 8-10 workers are not able to pick my raspberry fruit. I want people to be satisfied at work.

Have you been involved in agriculture for a long time?

Since the late ’90s. I am a farmer by specialty. I started growing apples and raspberries on the land around the house.

Do you sell fruits in Moldova or export them?

Raspberries – only on the domestic market, in Chișinău and Transnistria. Apples – we export in Russia.

What about Europe?

In my opinion, Europe’s role in exporting fruit and vegetables from Moldova is exaggerated. Our main market is Russia. 99% of all Moldovan apples are exported there. Yes, there is a percentage of exports to Europe, but the process of collaboration with them is quite difficult. The Russian market needs our apples and buys them. There is only one problem here …

Which one?

For 20 years, since I grew apples, the price for our products has practically not changed. As they cost MDL 5-6 for a kilo some years ago, that’s how much they cost now. However, the expenses and diesel prices have increased during this time 3-4 times. For example, spraying a hectare of landing cost $ 300 in 2010, and now – about EUR 1,000. So the trend is not the best. I don’t think we will be able to increase prices in the coming years. And if we work with low profitability, we don’t have enough money for development. As a result, we work to exist, not to grow.

Let’s go back to the internal market. Now, during quarantine, at least in Chișinău, supermarkets have taken over some sales of fruits and vegetables. The markets were closed.

Supermarkets have their own policy. Very often we can see how our products rot in refrigerators, and Polish or Spanish products are sold in supermarkets. Competition has also increased in the market. In the past, when we went to the market with raspberries, we were sure we will sell it. Now you can come to the market, and it’s already all red, full of raspberries. There is a big internal competition. But after all, that’s how agriculture is. You may not make a huge profit, but you certainly don’t know what hunger means, especially if you have different kind of crops. I, for example, have a hectare and a half of young cherry orchard. This year harvest is good, but last year I sold 3 tons less, if I calculate all the expenses. That’s why the more cultures you work with, the safer your finances are.

Finance – do you have loans? Do you collaborate with Microinvest?

Yes, it is very convenient to collaborate with them. I have a large household. Besides orchards, I have a warehouse, three tractors, all the necessary aggregates for spraying. Moreover, agriculture is known to be a seasonal activity. So, without credit you can’t always handle it.

How did quarantine and pandemic influence your activity?

The domestic market shrank, but thank God, the isolation did not affect exports to Russia. Apples are sold very well. In addition, I took care of the „housework”. I uprooted six acres of land. Now I have two hectares of wheat, two hectares of peas, they will definitely be useful in the household. I also make wine at home. And I always tell my boys: „Stop buying beer, it’s better to have homemade wine, from father”.

Pavel Zingan.


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