Consumers have some burning questions when it comes to food. Is it organic? Is there a misuse of pesticides? Is it a genetically modified food? And the phrase “we no longer know what we are eating” sometimes seems a foregone conclusion. As such, all those skeptic citizens that no longer trust the feverish vows of merchants who claim to only sell organic food must be informed that the parliament is expected to soon approve a bill on organic products in line with European Union standards. The bill on “Organic produce, label and control” has been submitted to parliament and will be discussed by parliamentary committees and groups of interests.

The draft obtained by AgroWeb sheds light on the novelties of the initiative and what it means to the farmer and consumer. Sources from the Ministry of Agriculture told AgroWeb that the work team that drafted the bill has received assistance from CIAM-Italy and consulted with European Commission experts.

Minister of Agriculture Edmond Panariti admitted that the “bill provides much needed clarity on the term organic food and that highlights the journey of organic produce, used plants, non chemical inputs, packaging and labeling.” “Entering local and foreign markets requires an accurate certificate and a strict process of biologic produce”, Panariti explained. He adds that the advantages of organic products rely in the fact that their price can be four or five times more expensive than any other conventional food. “There are guaranteed markets for these products, but we do not have capacities to meet market demands” he underlined. Minister Panariti guarantees that all farms that will be included in the process of certification of organic products will be subject to subsidies and fiscal facilities. According to Minister Panariti, organic agriculture will give Albania a clear advantage.

Novelties of the bill

- The bill documents reveal several novelties and priorities in terms of organic production.
- The bill clearly defines the objectives, principles and rules for organic production to ensure transparency and consumer trust.
- It also defines the products and substances allowed in the organic agriculture.
- The bill determines the methods that must be used in organic agriculture and processing of organic food;
- Prohibits the use of GM in organic agriculture;
- Defines clear rules for labeling of organic products;
- Defines the control system for organic foods and authorities responsible for the control of the entire chain of organic production.
- Sets up rules for the imports of organic food from other countries.

A Commission for Organic Agriculture will be established under the administration of the Ministry of Agriculture, responsible for the approval and oversight of the entire process.

Experts’ opinion

Enver Isufi, Director of the Biological Agriculture Institute, in an interview for AgroWeb said that the new bill is a very positive step ahead for Albanian agriculture. He classifies agriculture systems applied in Albania based on their inputs.

“Organic farming operators use inputs that are not hazardous to humans and environment. They are registered and certified based on respective standards. Organic farms abide to the list of waste, pesticides, seeds, soil and water hygiene, etc.,” he said.

“Organic products have their own label and logo. Consumers have been confused about notes, charts and labels for “bio meat”, “bio eggs” or “bio farms” and Mr Isufi explains that local merchants describe their uncertified products as organic to attract consumers. But only a certification body is able to provide the “organic” or “bio” certificate for a product.” Mr Isufi told AgroWeb.

Regardless of what the Albanian reality offers, our country has the means and natural conditions to provide organic products. “Albania has a great potential to produce organic food. Firstly, Albania has 10 times less inputs like waste or pesticides per soil unit compared to European agriculture. Secondly, Alps, mountains and hillsides represent 75% of Albanian lands, which means that there we can find many organic products or food that had minimal exposure to the dangerous inputs.

Albania's relief, where hills and mountains predominate, can create huge potential for organic products. If the government would announce a long term “Bio Albania” initiative, this would be a very modern and innovative policy” he argues.

A food product is organic only if it is grown without synthetic pesticides, artificial growth hormones, antibiotics, GM, chemical fertilizers etc. Photo: WebLibrary

What is organic food?

Many of us believe that organic products are simply natural grown in farms without any use of chemicals. This is a small part of the truth. A food product is organic only if it is grown without synthetic pesticides, artificial growth hormones, antibiotics, GM, chemical fertilizers etc. You should also know that the processing and transport of these products must be done based on regulations and standards well defined by responsible authorities.

Organic food is natural grown based on natural cycles in good soil free of external aggressors that harm the compound of the product, soil and environment as well as our health considering that we are the ultimate consumer of such produce.

How can consumers tell that a food product is organic?

The abovementioned bill clearly defines rules for packaging and labeling of organic food. The products that meet the requirements will have a label that includes the terms ‘organic’ or abbreviations such as ‘bio’. Products that meet the conditions set out in the bill must automatically have a label with a national special logo. The label of ‘bio’ food can also include private logos.

Organic agriculture in Albania

A fertile agriculture land, warm weather and soft climate make Albania into an ideal organic agriculture source. However, the country was short of proper legislation for organic certificates.

Organic certification is the most important tool for Albanian farmers who are mostly involved in the exports of their own products. According to a report titled “The World of Organic Agriculture- Statistics and 2015 Trend” Albania has 662 hectares of organic land which makes 0.1% of the total of agricultural land.

A recent FIBL study on international organic sector revealed that organic agriculture in Albania is gaining momentum and is significantly growing. The report highlights the successful collection of wild vegetation based on organic standards. It seems that an Organic Albania is the future of our agriculture./