Also present at the news conference on organic agriculture (OA) was Deputy Agriculture Minister Dimiter Peichev.
Schlueter advised the country to make OA a priority and to increase the area dedicated to it. Currently, 9,370 ha in Bulgaria are dedicated to OA. Schlueter said the number of projects dedicated to OA under the Rural Development Programme also needs to increase.
Schlueter also pointed to Bulgaria's potential to increase its market for traditional foodstuffs abroad, such as herbs and yoghurt.
It is very important for Bulgaria to keep its organic seeds, fruits and vegetables uncontaminated, Schlueter said. He urged Bulgaria not to grow GM organisms and to retain current legislation restricting this.
A total of 164 million leva (around 82 million euro) have been set aside for OA over the 7-year period of the National Plan for OA Development, which aims to increase both supply and demand for organic crops, so that by 2013, 3 per cent of all foodstuffs sold in the country are organically farmed, and 8 per cent of all farmland is dedicated to OA, Peichev said.
Agri-environmental payments are one of 22 measures applicable under the Rural Development Programme for 2007-2013. This measure has a budget exceeding 435 million euro. Agri-environmental payments will be available for five years, with 82 per cent of the money coming from the EU and 18 per cent from national co-financing. Depending on the chosen activity, payments per unit of surface area will range between 20 euro and 505 euro a year, Peichev said.
Schlueter is in Bulgaria for the IFOAM Board's annual seminar, to be held in Plovdiv on April 3-4.