During the communist era a diversified industry was established in Moldova, agriculture was modernised, and transport and the building industry were overhauled. Following independence, the government began the gradual transformation from a command (centrally planned) to a market economy, establishing a program to privatise many state enterprises primarily through distribution of ownership vouchers to the public. Moldovan industrial and agricultural products, including grapes and wine, are exported to numerous foreign countries.
There was no large-scale private farming during the Soviet period, but collective farmers did have small plots for their own use. Private land ownership, consisting primarily of smallholdings, was initiated in 1990. The amount of privately owned land grew slowly, but the rate increased after the advent of a government program of large-scale privatisation in 1995. Conversely, collective farms (engaged mainly in cultivation of grain crops and mixed farming) and state farms (usually specialising in the cultivation and processing of a particular crop) began to diminish in importance.
Agriculture has been highly mechanised, almost all agricultural jobs being performed by machines. All collective and state farms are provided with electricity, and chemical pesticides and mineral fertilisers are widely used.
Since 1940 the area used for vegetables, orchards, berries, and vineyards has undergone significant expansion. Viticulture, fruit and vegetable growing, and other specialised farming activities are particularly important, constituting about one-fourth of the commodity output of arable farming. Grapes are Moldova's most important industrial crop, with the largest vineyards found in the southern and central regions. Most orchards are situated in northern and south-eastern Moldova. Sunflower seeds, another significant crop, are grown throughout the republic, though the south-eastern regions have the largest plantations. Sugar beets, a relatively new crop in Moldova, are cultivated in the north. Moldova also is a major tobacco grower. Vegetables are grown mainly in the southeast.
The chief grain crops are winter wheat and corn (maise). Wheat is used for the republic's own needs, and corn is exported as a seed crop. Most of the grain is grown in the north.
Dairying and cattle breeding also are important, as is pig farming. The sturdy Karakul and tsigay breeds constitute a large proportion of the sheep, the raising of which is particularly important in southern Moldova.
The industrial sector of Moldova's economy is concentrated mainly on food processing, with the machine-building, power-engineering, consumer-goods, and building-materials industries also undergoing development.
The food industry has numerous branches; wine making, canning, sugar refining, and oil pressing, as well as the production of essential oils, are especially significant. In particular, Moldova is an important exporter of wine, including champagne and brandy. Moldova's sugar-refining industry is located in the north. For local needs the republic has flour and other mills and well-developed meat, dairy, and confectionery industries.
Machine building, established in the mid-1950s and centred on Chisinau, Balti, Tiraspol, and Tighina, has acquired importance. Tractors made in Moldova are specially equipped for use in orchards and vineyards. Light industry includes the production of furs at Balti, garments and knitwear at Chisinau and Tiraspol, footwear at Chisinau, and silk fabrics at Tighina.
Building materials produced in Moldova include bricks, limestone, tiles, cement, slate, and concrete blocks. Rabnitsa is the leading centre of this industry.
Thermoelectric power plants are located in Chisinau, Balti, and Tiraspol, and there are hydroelectric stations in Dubasari and Camenca on the Dniester. The republic provides electricity to the southern regions of Ukraine and also to Bulgaria through a transmission line.
Trade and transportation
Railway and motor transport are the basis of the republic's transport system. The railway network includes two main lines-one linking Tiraspol, Chisinau, and Ungheni and the other linking Tiraspol and Reni. Incoming freight includes coal, petroleum products, iron and nonferrous metals, timber, mineral fertilisers, and machines and equipment.
Agricultural goods and products of the food industry prevail among the outgoing commodities, although a growing quantity of machines and light industrial goods are sent to other commonwealth republics.
Motor transport generally carries freight inside Moldova, over a road network that is nearly all paved. River transport is of local importance, and air transport links Moldova with other republics. Chisinau is the site of the main international airport.