Albanians who relied on the sale of wild chestnuts for income are suffering this winter as the cost per kilo drops by up to 60% due to a decrease in demand, according to farmers at the Chestnut Festival held in the city of Elbasan.
Wild chestnut gathering and sales had become a sustainable business for many living in poorer, rural areas due to increased demand for export. In 2021, the price per kilo was around EUR 1.20, but has now dropped to just EUR 0.34.
“Productions have been very good, but we lack customers to buy, we lack a lot of market. We don’t have any support from the municipality”, a frustrated farmer told the media.
Chestnuts are mainly gathered in the north of the country, including Kukes, which is one of the poorest areas, most impacted by emigration. But increased demand for the nut had encouraged farmers to invest and increase their cultivation, but this year’s expectations have been dashed.
Exporters explained that a good chestnut harvest in Europe, combined with increased costs of transport, electricity, fuel, and packaging, meant that export prices were not as competitive for European customers.
“This year’s chestnuts are in large quantities not only in Albania but also in Europe. This is a special year, the increase in oil caused every price to increase almost twice, such as transportation, packaging, pallets, electricity, etc. As a result, the export price has dropped to 50 cents per kilogram, and demand is very low,” said Adrian Citozi from Lea 2011 export company.
He also said there is not such a demand for the product on the European market. Albanian chestnuts can be sold for as much as EUR 7 per kilo in Europe, while local farmers get between 30 and 45 cents. Meanwhile, some local stores are importing chestnuts from Greece and selling them at EUR 2.50 per kilo.
Farmers at the event told the media that there is unfair competition on the market as well as a lack of supervision, for example in the case of goods that do not meet proper standards.
“There is a lot of fake honey on the market and I asked the state and those who enforce the laws to punish the abusers,” said a farmer. Those who farm chestnuts also make income from honey due to the delicate flavour produced by bees frequenting chestnut flowers.