Cut in prices downgrades higher maize production

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times September 20, 2018 16:14

Cut in prices downgrades higher maize production

TIRANA, Sept. 20 – Corn production registered an almost record high in Albania this year boosted by favorable weather conditions, but farmers complain the cheaper prices they are being offered is making its cultivation little profitable.

With harvesting already in its final stage, farmers across the country have been able to get much better yield compared to last year when production was hit by one of the longest droughts in decades, paralyzing the country’s agriculture sector that heavily depends on rainfall due to lack of irrigation infrastructure.

However, prices farmers are being offered for their corn production are at an average of 28 lek/kg (€0.22), slightly above international prices, but too low considering the huge costs Albanian farmers face at a time when they get no subsidies and cultivation costs are too high due to oil prices being one of Europe’s highest and no excise-free fuel offered to them.

Maize prices in the previous years have ranged from 30 lek (€0.23)/kg at harvest time up to 40 lek (€0.31)/kg just before harvest.

Farmers say tough competition, especially from Serbia, one of the top suppliers of wheat and maize to Albania, is making the cultivation of two traditional field crops in Albania almost unprofitable.

Maize coming from Serbia, which has in several cases proved contaminated and of poor quality, gets to Albania at much cheaper prices due to abundant production and subsidies farmers get there, placing domestic production in serious difficulty.

Albania produced 381,000 metric tons of maize in 2017 at a yield of 6,100 kg/hecatre, one of the lowest yields due to a prolonged drought in summer 2017.

About a quarter of nationwide production is produced in the region of Fier, southwestern Albania.

The country’s second largest region, Fier is known as the breadbasket of Albania’s agriculture, producing 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.

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.

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.

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times September 20, 2018 16:14