More Albanian agricultural products tapping European markets

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times February 28, 2019 12:57

More Albanian agricultural products tapping European markets

Story Highlights

  • Albania's fresh vegetable and fruit exports have increased to around 10 billion lek (€79 million) in the past couple of years, a 10-fold increase compared to a decade ago and are expected to continue their upward trend as more businesses diversify their investment in agriculture

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TIRANA, Feb. 28 – Albanian fresh vegetables and fruit producers are successfully tapping European markets, including destinations such as Denmark and the Netherlands, as agriculture moves toward employing modern techniques and meeting EU standards.

Danish Green Garden, a greenhouse enterprise run by an Albanian couple who also engage in agriculture production in Denmark, has been operating in Albania for around a decade now and managed to meet almost half of its operations in Denmark through fresh products produced in Albania greenhouses.

The company says it operates 7 hectares of greenhouses in Albania and another 20 hectares in Denmark. A series of lettuce varieties such as baby carrots and baby radish are some of the special products grown at the Danish Green Garden in Fier and Lushnje outskirt, some 112 km south of Tirana.

Farm managers Muhamet Iseni and his wife Denada say two to three trucks of fresh vegetables from their Fier greenhouses go to Denmark each week.

The company’s products also go to the world-famous award-winning Noma restaurant in Copenhagen run by Rene Redzepi, a master chef of ethnic Albanian roots.

Danish Green Garden operates greenhouses in the region of Fier, southwestern Albania, known as the breadbasket of Albanian agriculture and producing the overwhelming majority of Albania’s exports.

"We are thinking of expanding and building 10 hectares of greenhouses. We handle special products that in general go to restaurants in Denmark and are thinking of producing everything in Albania,” the Albanian couple is quoted as saying by the Prime Minister’s press office.

“We decided to bring up the new farm in Albania by 2009, so we could benefit from the mild and favorable climate especially during winter season. Our Copenhagen farm supplies summer produce to the most popular restaurants in Denmark. During winter they supply their clientele with Albanian grown produce,” Denada has earlier told the AgroWeb focused on agriculture.

Visiting the greenhouse this week, Prime Minister Edi Rama pledged more support for agribusinesses of this kind targeting foreign markets, encouraging them to apply for EU funding at the newly launched IPARD II, the Instrument for Pre-accession for Rural Development programme.

Prime Minister Rama described Danish Green Garden as a success story that proves Albanian agriculture products “can go even further at a time when they have already reached Denmark where one of the toughest food safety standards are applied.”

Several other export-oriented greenhouses operate in Fier, including SuperBerry Albania, a Fier-based Dutch-Albanian joint venture that has been exporting berries to the Netherlands since late 2015 after it launched a new packing facility.

Only few Dutch companies are currently engaged in Albania’s agrifood sector, but the potential for cooperation and investment in the soft fruit sector in various types of berries, as well as nuts, medicinal and aromatic plants and greenhouse vegetables is quite huge, an earlier Dutch study examining agribusiness investment opportunities between Albania and the Netherlands has shown.

Orientation toward more profitable exports and neglect of traditionally produced vegetables has also led to a double-digit hike in fresh vegetable prices in the past few months.

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.

Agriculture is one of the main sectors of the Albanian economy, employing about half of the country’s population but producing only about a fifth of the country’s GDP, unveiling its poor productivity and huge untapped potential hampered by the fragmentation of land into small plots, poor credit and lack of subsidies.

Although one of Europe’s smallest countries in terms of area and population, the favorable Mediterranean climate with plenty of sunshine ranks Albania one of the top agricultural producers among 38 European nations.

Data published by Eurostat, the EU’s statistical office, shows Albania is among Europe’s top ten producers when it comes to citrus fruit, aromatic and medicinal plants as well as chestnuts.

Olives, watermelon and nuts are the top three agricultural products that Albania can decently compete with to tap export markets despite a series of obstacles in place preventing the competitiveness of Albania’s agriculture, according to a recent World Bank study.

While the identified frontrunners are not the top fruit and vegetable products that Albania currently exports, World Bank experts suggest Albania can take advantage in switching efficient production to olives, watermelon and nuts, three products that are already increasingly entering regional and EU markets.

Currently, medicinal and aromatic plants and fresh vegetables are the top two agricultural products that Albania exports.

Albania's fresh vegetable and fruit exports have increased to around 10 billion lek (€79 million) in the past couple of years, a 10-fold increase compared to a decade ago and are expected to continue their upward trend as more businesses diversify their investment in agriculture, according to INSTAT, the state-run statistical institute.

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times February 28, 2019 12:57