From: Alice Taylor
€112 Million of EU Funds Destined for Albania’s Agrisector

The EU is set to plough some €112 million into Albanian agricultural and rural development as a part of the IPARD III programme, announced on Wednesday (18 May).

The programme covers the years 2021 to 2027 and seeks to support sustainable food systems by increasing the agri-food sector’s competitiveness and progressively aligning it with the EU acquis. In addition, it seeks to improve the efficiency and sustainability of on-farm production to meet the demand for safe, nutritious and sustainable food and animal welfare.

Other key tenets of the initiative include facilitating business development and employment in rural areas and elevating farmers’ position in the value chain. It also helps to attract more farmers to the sector and improve community development on a local level.

The Albanian government will add another EUR 34 million to the EU figure, bringing the total to EUR 146 million.

Prime Minister Edi Rama said the money will open doors for those that want to work in and develop the sector in Albania.

“This massive EU funding paves an even wider path for all those who want to develop their venture. What is happening is an extraordinary innovation in the rural life of our country, which has been delayed,” Rama said.

Agriculture Minister Frida Krifca, for her part, said that the funds will “give opportunity to Albanian agriculture to develop as never before, new greenhouses, agritourism, collection points, tractors, and other mechanical tools.” she said.

Previous funding under IPARD 2 enabled the government to make significant improvements to the sector, she added. “People are being hired, startups are supported, standards of quality of production have increased.”

The funds will be divided up into tranches that will be disbursed over the years of the programme. The biggest sum, some EUR 31.4 million is set aside for investments in farmers’ physical assets with a further EUR 30 million for investment in assets for the processing and marketing of agri-products.

Some EUR 2.1 million will be used to increase organic farming. Albania recently pledged to meet the EU Green Deal goal of 23% of all agricultural land to be farmed organically by 2030, a 100% increase on the current amount.

Other significant investments include EUR 21.3 million for farm diversification and business development and EUR 12 million in rural public infrastructure.

Regarding the target of 25% organic farming by 2030, Krifca made the pledge at the 33rd Regional Conference for Europe in Poland, organised by the Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations.

“Albania has committed to expanding the use of organic farming methods to achieve the EU target of 25% of agricultural land for organic use…we are still far from this but with the help of various partners, we are striving to meet it,” she said.

Krifca noted that many farmers are worried that the green transition will negatively affect their livelihoods and the ability to feed people at accessible costs. She continued that it is possible to make the transition while ensuring continued agricultural production to meet people’s needs.

“As we speak we are finalising our national agricultural strategy, key pillars ensuring the introduction of agricultural practices that have a lower impact on the environment while maintaining and increasing the yield,” she added, nodding to traditional agrosystems including olive planting and the sustainable use of pastures, as measures that will be introduced.

Albania has significant potential to develop its agricultural system but this has been hampered by economic struggles and a lack of investment. During 50 years of communist rule, farmland was divided up into cooperatives and farmed for the needs of the state. However, cracks began to appear in this system early on and much of the country struggled with food shortages.

Following the end of the regime, the land was given back to farmers who were woefully under-prepared and lacking the machinery, infrastructure, and know-how needed. After being shut off from the rest of the world for almost 50 years, much had changed in the agricultural landscape, and Albania needed to catch up.

Still, by 2022, progress remains slow as successive governments have failed to make sustainability and agriculture a priority. On the other hand, farmers have also been unwilling to embrace new techniques, invest in new machinery or processes, or adapt their products to the needs of the market.

The programme will start disbursing from the start of 2023, but the government hopes some funds will be available by the end of the year if they complete some processes in due course.