Fier, the breadbasket of Albania’s agriculture

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times November 23, 2017 11:14

Fier, the breadbasket of Albania’s agriculture

Story Highlights

  • The southwestern Albanian region of Fier, known as the breadbasket of Albania's agriculture, produces about a third of total vegetables and a quarter of the country’s field crops, making agriculture in this region a key sector in addition to its oil industry which has slowed down in the past three years due to a slump in international oil prices

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TIRANA, Nov. 23 – The southwestern Albanian region of Fier, known as the breadbasket of Albania’s agriculture, produces about a third of total vegetables and a quarter of the country’s field crops, making agriculture in this region a key sector in addition to its oil industry which has slowed down in the past three years due to a slump in international oil prices.

Due to its fertile lowlands, Fier produced about 370,000 metric tons of vegetables in 2016, about a third of the country’s total in an area of 9,310 hectares, according to data published by INSTAT, the state-run statistical office.

The southwestern region has a big advantage over the other 11 Albanian regions in fresh vegetable, melon and white bean production as well as grains such as wheat and maize but also olive.

When it comes to citrus production, it’s the southern region of Vlora that produces about 60 percent of total production, mainly thanks to Xarre mandarin cooperatives in Saranda, southernmost Albania.

Albania’s fruit and vegetable production has registered a sharp increase in the past five years, meeting the majority of the country’s needs and increasing exports.

Vegetable exports increased 5-fold peaking at 5.4 billion lek (€39 million) in 2016, compared to only about 1 billion lek (€7.9 million) until 2012, according to state statistical institute, INSTAT.

The region of Fier, the country’s second largest in terms of population, is home to some 302,000 residents, accounting for 11 percent of Albania’s 2.9 million population. Its surface area is 1,890 km2 with a population density of some 164 residents/km2.

Because of its key oil and agriculture sectors, the region of Fier is one of the key contributors to the country’s GDP along with Tirana and Durres, the hosts of about half of the country’s population and businesses.

The region of Fier is home to the Patos-Marinza oilfield, Europe’s largest onshore oil field where oil production has slowed down following the mid-2014 slump in international oil prices.  Meanwhile, the district of Lushnja, part of the region of Fier, is known as the breadbasket of Albanian agriculture due its fertile lands and hard-working farmers. An oil refiner also operates in the Mallakastra district of the region of Fier.

Agriculture is a key sector in the Albanian economy, employing about half of the country’s GDP but producing only about 20 percent of the GDP, unveiling its low productivity which is hampered by fragmentation of farm land into small plots and poor financing and technology employed.

Irrigation capacities remains a key barrier nationwide ranging from 17 percent in Berat to 45 percent in Fier and Korça and 47 percent in the northeastern region of Dibra, despite Albania having one of Europe’s largest per capita water resources.

In addition, farmers also complain about high fuel prices and lack of refunds increasing production costs and making them uncompetitive to regional countries providing subsidies.

A government initiative to formalize the sector by providing tax IDs to farmers in return for paying compulsory insurance and benefiting refunds has attracted only few dozens of thousands of farmers so far and the government says it intends to revise the pension system for farmers.

The agriculture sector has grown by slightly above zero in the past couple of years, reflecting weather related factors such as floods, freezes and prolonged droughts.

With the remittances-fueled construction boom almost over, more and more Albanian enterprises are turning to agriculture to diversify their investments, engaging mostly in egg, fruit and vegetable production, a considerable part of which are destined for exports.

In addition to almost paralyzing the country’s hydro-dependent electricity sector, the prolonged drought Albania faced last summer had a negative impact on Albania’s agriculture, especially corn production.

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times November 23, 2017 11:14