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Moldovan almonds impressed Spaniards

Almonds have emerged as one of the most sought-after products for promoting a healthy lifestyle, boasting remarkable benefits. Surprisingly, these sweet and nutritious nuts, originating from the Mediterranean, are also thriving in Moldova. Semion Cerneanu, a civil engineer by profession and a client of Microinvest, embarked on his journey in horticulture in 2005. Today, he oversees over 60 hectares of walnut orchards and 30 hectares of almond groves, exported to various countries including Spain, Macedonia, Albania, Turkey, and Azerbaijan.

How profitable it is to grow almonds in Moldova, what is the key to the success of a good harvest and how you managed to surprise Spaniards with Moldovan almonds, learn from this interview.

Many of us have only seen almonds on the shelves of stores. How did you start growing them in Moldova and how difficult is it?

The idea of establishing an almond orchard took root in 2005, but before committing to this endeavor, my family and I conducted extensive research into the industry. Despite my background as a civil engineer, I gradually transitioned into the role of an agronomist. Initially, we ventured into walnut cultivation, and in 2008, we took the leap to plant our first almond orchard. At that time, we were among the pioneers in this agricultural sector, which was relatively underexplored and uncharted in our country. Nevertheless, we pressed on. We delved into foreign literature, diligently studying every nuance and obstacle that lay ahead. The journey from planting the orchard to harvesting the first fruits was arduous, but we persevered with the unwavering support and assistance of our entire family.

What should we know about almonds as consumers or farmers interested in growing them?

As you may know, almonds are renowned for their health benefits and versatility. Whether eaten raw, into desserts, beverages, or main dishes, they offer a lot of advantages for brain function, skin health, and heart health. Almonds are known to reduce bad cholesterol, normalize blood pressure, and even aid in preventing diabetes and other ailments. They are also an excellent choice for people with lactose intolerance. Turning to their cultivation, almonds present a unique challenge. While they are fruit trees of remarkable beauty, they can also be quite temperamental. In the initial years following the establishment of our orchard, we faced a perplexing issue: despite meticulous care, the trees failed to bear fruit. We turned to all the specialists in Moldova, but no one could give us a solution. Our quest for a solution led us abroad, where even experienced horticulturists from Germany and Holland were unable to diagnose the problem. It wasn’t until we conducted a comprehensive analysis of the soil that we finally identified and addressed the issue, ultimately leading to our first successful harvest. In 2016, we exported our first batch of almonds to Spain, an accomplishment that surpassed all expectations. The Spaniards were astonished by the size and quality of our almonds, unable to believe that such a variety could be cultivated in Moldova.

Do we know that almonds require special harvesting and processing techniques? Tell us a little about these steps.

Growing and harvesting almonds indeed entail a meticulous and multifaceted process, spanning several stages. Foremost among these is soil analysis and treatment, alongside considerations such as irrigation and frost protection. Currently, we are in the midst of the harvest season. Utilizing specialized machinery, we gather the almonds and transfer them to dedicated containers for transport to cleaning facilities and subsequently to a drying chamber. In this chamber, almonds undergo drying for up to 40 hours, at a controlled temperature not exceeding 34 degrees Celsius, preserving their nutritional integrity. While almonds can be stored in their shells for several years, peeled almonds have a shorter shelf life, typically lasting only a few months. Consequently, we prioritize selling them fresh at local fairs. Despite its challenges, the process of growing and harvesting almonds is immensely rewarding, particularly during the spring bloom when the orchards are adorned with exquisite almond blossoms. The fragrance of these blooms lingers for weeks, attracting couples seeking picturesque settings for their wedding photoshoots. Recently, we’ve also received inquiries about tours of our almond orchards, a prospect we find both exciting and promising.

We can’t help but ask about walnuts – very common in our country, and very profitable. What varieties do you grow, and what is the secret of a good fruit?

We grow a French walnut variety, Franquette, a venerable yet highly esteemed variety renowned for its exceptional quality and resilience. In France, 95% of walnut orchards are Franquette. Initially, we assumed that nuts trees could simply be planted and left to bear fruit. However, we soon realized that nurturing a successful harvest requires meticulous care and attention. Experience has taught us that success in agriculture is inherently fraught with uncertainty. Weather conditions can fluctuate unpredictably, presenting inherent risks to our endeavors. Nonetheless, by selecting the Franchette variety, we mitigate some of these risks. Known for its time-tested resilience and frost resistance, the Franchette variety has proven its adaptability to our local climate and soil conditions.

What are your plans for the near future? What role does Microinvest play in the development of your business? 

Microinvest has been our go-to resource for urgent investments, serving as a lifeline during critical times. While we’ve worked with various lending institutions over our years in agriculture, we’ve found Microinvest to be particularly responsive and efficient. Unlike traditional banks, which can be slow to process loan requests, Microinvest provided us with financing in just 2 hours when we urgently needed a new field machine. Their young and energetic team impressed us with quick response to our needs. Moving forward, we plan to continue partnering with Microinvest for our financing needs, especially as we embark on ambitious projects. Our aspirations include investing in a processing line, expanding our walnut orchards, and diversifying into almond products such as flour, oil, flakes, and cream. Achieving these goals will require substantial investments and reliable partners, and we trust Microinvest to support us every step of the way.

*Microinvest is the only non-bank credit institution in Moldova which adheres to international customer protection principles. They involve a responsible and transparent lending process, based on a fair, respectful and equitable approach to customer service.


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