Easier market access offered to first Albania homemade traditional products

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times December 5, 2018 12:56

Easier market access offered to first Albania homemade traditional products

Story Highlights

  • The Permet business incubator, a joint investment by the Albanian and Italian governments at a modest €140,000, is a novelty which Albanian authorities say will be extended nationwide to help small farmers access markets by preserving traditional production methods, but certifying them under market requirements to meet food safety standards

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By Ervin Lisaku

permet 2

Permet town

TIRANA, Dec. 5 – Local homemade traditional products in Permet, a southern Albanian historic town, are well known throughout Albania, but as in much of the country face difficulty in penetrating markets due to being produced informally and lacking certification.

A town of some 10,000 residents, Permet, nicknamed the ‘City of flowers,’ is known for the Benja thermal springs, the iso-polyphony of late master Laver Bariu whose ‘kaba’ instrumental music has been placed under UNESCO protection as ‘a masterpiece of the oral and intangible heritage of humanity,’ and most recently as an emerging adventure travel destination for rafting along the Vjosa River canyons.

Two of the town’s characteristic products, gliko, a fruit compote, and raki, the traditional alcoholic drink of Albania, can now easier access local markets following investment in a local production facility known as an ‘incubator’ of typical Albanian products, the first of this kind in the country.

The incubator, a joint investment by the Albanian and Italian governments at a modest €140,000, is a novelty which Albanian authorities say will be extended nationwide to help small farmers access markets by preserving traditional production methods, but certifying them under market requirements to meet food safety standards.

“We will extend this model nationwide so that typical products certified by these incubators can easier access markets,” says Albania’s Agriculture Minister Niko Peleshi.

The Permet business incubator is a facility with two production lines, one for the local raki, and the other to dry, cut and package local fruit and vegetables, in an investment that has also been supported by the Italian Development Cooperation, the Italian government’s agency responsible for official development aid abroad.

Minister Peleshi says the business incubator model in Permet is an opportunity for artisan farmers and housewives to meet food safety standards and easily access markets to increase their household income.

“The Permet gliko and raki as well as other dishes are well known, but not everybody can easily find them on sale because many of these products are informal and lack standardization. They are excellent and so tasty, but cannot prove that to the National Food Authority,” the agriculture minister said during the recent inauguration of the Permet business incubator.

A fruit compote, Gliko is a dessert offered to every guest in Permet, a town known for its hospitality in addition to natural and cultural heritage.

“The solution is this incubator, artisans can come here and use this incubator’s equipment and have their products packaged, labelled and certified to easily sell them by increasing the quantity produced and marketing them better,” he adds.

The Permet incubator will be managed by a local association promoting traditional products.

Permet is also known for fine white wines, honey and dairy products and has been selected by an Albanian woman and her French husband as the site of an agribusiness farm, operational for the past couple of years, offering local organic food and accommodation.

The business incubator initiative comes as Albania has undertaken a campaign to brand its unique agriculture products to boost agritourism through the promotion of quality authentic Albanian products such as olive oil, mountain tea, medicinal and aromatic plants considered some of Albania’s rarest riches.

Korça apples and honey, Berat olive oil, Tropoja chestnuts, Saranda mandarins and northern Albanian medicinal plants as well as Fier region vegetables are already renowned products regionally, in addition to the local Raki, a clear liquor usually made from grapes which is the traditional alcoholic drink of Albanians. However, they lack international recognition and certification to penetrate EU markets.

Farm-to-table restaurants are also being offered tax incentives in a bid to boost the country’s nascent agritourism sector.

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

 

Permet Gliko

“Gliko is an important element of the local cuisine in Përmet and is made from many different fruits and vegetables, all grown locally by many of the valley’s small-scale farmers. ‘Walnut husk’ gliko, made from whole green walnuts, is the most common style and other popular variations include white cherry, eggplant, wild fig, plum and apricot,” says Italy-based Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity.

“The production method, although differing depending on the type of gliko, involves the careful selection of the fruit, which is then left to soak for one hour and twenty minutes in a mix of cold water and lime so that it becomes firm and resistant. The fruit is then mixed with sugar and boiled in a traditional copper pot placed over an open flame, to cook for one hour. Lemon is added at intervals to maintain a bright color. When the fruit has absorbed the syrup the gliko is cooled and packaged in glass jars,” adds the foundation.

 

A historic town

Back in early 2017, the southern Albanian town of Permet was declared a historic center, paving the way to restoration projects in a bid to make it more attractive to tourists who are already discovering the town through rafting on the Vjosa River canyons.

Permet boasts characteristic buildings although transformed, arched front doors and centuries-old cypress trees.

There are two religious buildings within the historic center, the 1776 St. Premte church, a first-category cultural monument, and the 19th century St. Nicholas church. There are indications the cobbled streets and narrow paths date back to the early 19th century.

The Varrosh neighborhood houses, mostly two-storey ones, stand next to each other, with small front gardens surrounded by stone walls and wooden front doors.

The Permet district is known for its Benja thermal waters, the Hotova fir national park, the Trebeshinë – Dhëmbel – Nëmëreçkë mountain chain and the Kelcyra Gorge.

A town of some 12,000 residents, situated some 224 km south of Tirana, Permet has been inhabited for centuries, and is the hometown of the famous 19th century Frasheri brothers who had a key contribution to Albanian Renaissance movement ahead of the country’s declaration of independence in 1912 after almost five centuries under Ottoman rule.

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times December 5, 2018 12:56