Amid ongoing protests against the rising price of essential food items and fuel, Prime Minister Edi Rama has announced that he has agreed with Serbia to import wheat products.
Russia and Ukraine contribute 50% of all wheat to Albania, a supply that has come to an end due to Moscow’s invasion. The last shipment of Russian wheat arrived in Albania last week, and industry stakeholders warned of price increases as they scrambled to find alternative solutions.
Non-partisan protests have been taking place across the country for six days against increases in prices and the amount of taxes citizens pay—as much as 53% in the case of fuel.
They also accuse the government of corruption and favour oligarchs by allowing manipulation of prices in the market.
But as Albanians fear bread being off the menu, Belgrade could be coming to the rescue. Serbia produces some 2.09 million tonnes of wheat every year and 6.1 million tonnes of maize, making it amongst the top producers in the world.
Following Russia’s war against Ukraine and concerns over global food security, Serbia announced it would stop exporting wheat and maize to conserve its stocks.
Then yesterday, Rama said Serbia had agreed to export cereal to Albania as a part of the Open Balkan project.
“I am glad we have unblocked wheat and cereals contracts with Serbia. This is the Open Balkans as far as we know,” he said without announcing any further details on how much would be imported and whether it means further increased costs for Albanians.
Meanwhile, stakeholders say more attention needs to be paid to developing Albania’s domestic food production. According to the World Bank, Albania needs to increase agricultural productivity as it has the lowest percentage of arable land in the whole of Europe.
The country has just 0.2 hectares per capita, and the WB recommends total agricultural reform to transform food production.
Other issues facing Albania include erosion and land becoming less fertile, with more than 20% at risk. This issue is exacerbated by land being abandoned due to emigration and internal demographic movements.
Significant improvements in irrigation infrastructure are also required.