For the moment, the threat of closing down the National Office for Vine and Wine (ONVV) has passed. In the last Parliament session, they took out amendments to the Law on Vine and Wine from the draft voted in two readings.
On the one hand, the Steering Committee (the highest governing body of ONVV) had called upon the authorities in writing; on the other hand, there had been a response on the part of the donors – the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and Swedish Government. The Speaker of the Parliament, Andrian Candu, said: “We very much appreciate the support given by the US Government, thus we have turned back to the matter”. However, this does not mean that the amendments are not going to pop up again during the next session. Therefore, it makes sense to talk about the role of ONVV for the modern Moldovan winemaking.
As well as for the image
According to the producers, the sector needs this body, which has been created as a public-private partnership (the only one in Moldova).
The staff of the National Office for Vine and Wine are professionals in the field”, says director general of «Vinia-Traian» JSC, Simion Cristev. “It is governed by a Steering Committee, where producers are represented by their associations. They can really influence the decision-making. The funds are spent in a targeted and transparent manner and used for Moldovan winemaking promotion and certain projects voted by the Steering Committee. Nobody has had the right to prevent our participation in exhibitions or influence the decision on where to channel funding. The ONVV is the voice of the sector.
We did not understand the arguments that made them want to close the Office down. After the Moldova-Vin Department had been dissolved, we had been looking for a form of leadership in the sector for three years, studied the experience of other countries, discussed it, and found an optimal, in our opinion, form of public-private partnership. If anything, we participate financially as well, and the government does the same. It would be interesting to know, who was not happy and what with about the work of ONVV? If we have done something wrong, please explain us, what is it exactly? And what were they offering us in return? The Agency for Investment Attraction that does everything and nothing specific? They destroyed the Vine and Wine Institute in the same way, having merged it with the other ASM institutes. Moldova is a wine country, and we need sector science (an institute) and an administrative body. This is also necessary for the image of domestic vine-growing and winemaking”.
Professional support is needed
Director General of «Vinuri de Comrat» JSC, Anatolii Hmelevschi, considers that in the last years there has been a positive, targeted, systematic, step-by-step development of winemaking in many areas, including marketing and mastering of new technologies. And this is quite right. Companies need professional support, since not every wine factory is capable of going all the way of development on its own.
We see real outcomes from collective participation in exhibitions in different countries, where they recognize us, where we identify export partners”, the interlocutor mentions. “Thanks to the Office and the strategic partner – Moldova Competitiveness Project (funded by the USAID and Swedish Government) – many projects have been implemented in Moldovan winemaking, e.g. in one of them companies benefit from consultants’ assistance to improve the quality of produced wine. «Vinuri de Comrat» JSC has participated in such a program for two years, which along constant production upgrade has given us very good results. The sector definitely needs the National Office for Vine and Wine. The staff is formed of professionals. Being aware of the needs of the sector, they always put forward initiatives, hold workshops both themselves and by inviting recognized experts. If we are all going to struggle on our own (and we have been through that already), it will lead to no good. If the Office is closed down, domestic winemaking will be pushed many years back”.
According to the manager of «Chateau Vartely» LLC, Ludmila Gogu, the work of the Office has been clearly beneficial to wine-makers, since the main resources would be allocated to wine promotion on a number of markets, to creation of PGI category of wines, etc.
If we are going to wrap up this work, we will go back to where we have started from”, reassures the general director. “Of course, joint efforts yield results. Country and product marketing do not have an immediate impact on sales, but build up the image of the product and the company, that is the reason, probably, why sales have not doubled straight away. But the visibility of the country has improved within this period of time. And again, promotion of the country and the product called “Moldovan wine” requires not one year or two, but 10-15 years. We have just started doing it and suddenly we quit on the mark? So, in my opinion, this is a huge problem”.
We are not alone
Winemaking experts from Romania, Germany, and the UK have expressed their support for the sector. Georg Binder from Germany said the news about closing down the ONVV had even made a splash at the international wine competition Berliner Wein Trophy` 2018.
“We are happy that this decision has been revoked and wish great success to Moldovan vine-growers and winemakers in the future”, he wrote in this comment. The competition jury members even wanted to make a video to support ONVV and post it on social media.
US Investments – $9.8 mil
USAID, mentioned by the Speaker of Parliament, had every right to resent the decision to close down the National Office for Vine and Wine, since the latter had pushed the producers and awoken the desire for change in them. Since 2005 up till now, the US Agency for International Development has invested $9.8 mil in the Moldovan vine and wine sector.
Diana Lazar, vice-director of the Moldova Competitiveness Project (funded by the USAID and Swedish Government), reminded that when in 2010 there was an idea in CEED I project about waiving excise duty on wine and license for winemaking, winemakers could not believe that was possible at all. They could not imagine back then that they would be able not only to get these concessions, but also to participate in sector management through their representatives. ONVV was created as an innovative and revolutionary entity that could yield specific results in sector policy implementation.
We have always been very good in strategy writing, but the problem is to achieve the set objectives”, says the vice-director. “In all countries, entities managing the vine and wine sector are based on the principle of a public-private partnership (PPP). That is, the government makes sector policy and business environment stating what should be worked on and how to do it better. And the government does not interfere. This is also true about the National Office for Vine and Wine. We see it not only as a management model, but also as a new mindset. The strategies of the Office and us, as partners, have always had a goal – to create sustainable development, in order to produce less, but for a higher cost, and to leave as much money as possible in Moldova to make it work for our benefit afterwards.
Winemaking is the only sector in agribusiness (and Moldova is an agrarian country), where all the value chain is located in our country, ending with a brand product. And the design agencies developing branding and labels for our wines are among the TOP creative wine branding agencies in the world. Hence, other sectors are also connected to winemaking, including tourism. Wine industry directly contributes to sustainable development of the rural area. While the achievements of local winemakers create a sense of pride. Given the above, winemaking is a strategic sector”.
Wine is a brand product
Since wine, unlike commodities, is a brand product, it requires a different, more customized marketing approach. Only ONVV used to be dealing with that. Producers’ associations have neither experience, budget, nor staff for these activities. Together with the strategic partner USAID (through CEED I, CEED II and Moldova Competitiveness Project), the Office focused on marketing programs first, followed by other areas later. But the wide circle of people mainly knows about companies’ participation in exhibitions. However this is just a small part of work. A lot has been done to position Moldovan wines as a product on target export markets, to create their image, etc. Before ONVV was created, no one in Moldova had been doing that.
Currently, the Office, with the support of Moldova Competitiveness Project, is implementing many projects: Wine of Moldova – marketing; to move production to a new quality level – New Generation Wineries, consisting of two subprojects – mentoring for small wineries and for wine factories that want to move from production of bulk wine to high-quality bottled wine.
The third big project – Best Grapes – is dedicated to quality improvement. It includes working with demonstrative lots of vineyards, monitoring plantations with the help of drones, production of PGI wines, experiments in the Moldova Technical University winemaking micro-shop, creation of the first zone for production of wines with the designation of origin (PDO).
The forth – Wine of Moldova Forward Looking – is dedicated to the legal and institutional aspects of ONVV. There is an objective: to certify ONVV in the ISO system by quality of services, for the Office to be able to create a donor fund and receive funding from them directly.
And there is a satellite project to create a registry of vineyards. All the initiatives are targeting one general goal – to enhance competitiveness of the sector.
We need to give at least 10 years
Despite the fact that the Office was created as a PPP, on a parity basis, the government was not paying its part to the vine and wine fund for the first two years. The first allocation from the public budget was transferred only in July 2016, when the ONVV had gone to the court. Therefore, the activity of the Office had been limited by a budget deficit. But funding has more or less worked out since then.
Thanks to that, the National Office for Vine and Wine has started a more integrated, dynamic and stable activity”, says Ms. Lazar. “After a series of crises, winemakers have got hope. Order has been made in the sector. Now it needs stability. The business needs at least 10 years to achieve the set goals and write a new chapter in the history of Moldovan winemaking that would become profitable and stay a valuable heritage for the future generations”.