Neighbors' Different Agricultural Model Reflects in Food Selection
Small farming is better off in Latvia due to government policy in that country, and as a result, Estonia's southern neighbor has more variety to offer consumers in some parts of the shopping basket, according to a comparison published in Postimees.
Latvia has a greater variety of local beer and milk, while Estonia's product selection in these areas tends to be clustered at opposite ends of the spectrum - fairly homogenous brands from major companies and a handful of organic entries from micro-producers. Latvia has more products from medium-size agricultural producers.
For example, there are no producers of unpasteurized beer in Estonia and the market is split up between two large and one smaller brewer. Latvia has 12 breweries. Agricultural policy is behind the beer situation as well - unlike Estonia, Latvia decided to allow alcoholic beverage producers to be eligible for investment measures under their rural development plan.
With regard to milk, small dairies and cattle herds are hard to find in Estonia, while small Latvian dairy farmers are said to have little problem finding large dairies to come around and collect their output.
On the other hand, the selection of meat products and bread in Estonia can certainly not be criticized, Postimees noted.
A total of 64,200 farms apply for direct subsidies from the implementing agency in Latvia, compared to a figure of 16,800 in Estonia. The average farm in Latvia has half the area of its Estonian counterparts.
The difference had become great already in the years before the EU, suggesting that it stemmed from policy practiced in the period from 1991-2004.
Deputy state secretary Aivars Lapins told the paper that the roots of the food selection lie in the country's different views of economics: Estonia is a believer in economy of scale when it comes to production and a more liberal approach to subsidies.