It all started with ‘Produce Albanian, trade Albanian, taste Albanian’. Launched on January 2014, the initiative of the Minister of Agriculture, Edmond Panariti aimed at boosting the Albanian organically grown products. The idea behind the concept was that the Albanian agricultural products should hold special spaces in domestic markets, marked distinctly as ‘Made in Albania’.
The ‘Made in Albania’ brand proved appealing enough for the European and the rest of the world markets, including the Russian market. An embargo started on December 8th from Russia had nothing to do with the Albanian products, but according to the Russian authorities, the problem was the forged Albanian phyto-sanitary certificates stemming from a printing house in the Czech Republic. After bilateral meetings, the issue has been put to bed.
The ‘Made in Albania’ quality helped Albanian exports increase by 28%. Despite its ups and downs, the Albanian agricultural sector during 2014 has experienced positive energy, except for major forces, which do not include only the weather.
The New Agro witnessed an economic growth of the sector of 2.9 percent according to INSTAT - the only sector with positive growth. Hence, 40 percent more applications for financial support from the national schemes, 8632 beneficiaries of Euro 12.8 million from the supporting financings, many banks providing new products and services tackling the needs of agriculture entrepreneurs. Special focus was placed to consolidators, agri-collection centers and cold storage premises to further boost Albanian exports.
The main priority for the coming year: Food safety
While it has been evidenced a better absorption of the EU funds, through the IPARD-like scheme, European financings for the Albanian agriculture in 2015 will increase from Euro 8.2 million to Euro 9 million.
The Government presented a map of regional agricultural products, a guide for the priorities of crops for every area, which also means a better allocation of the funds. Now, it is being made clearer the importance of increasing managing capacities of the farmers. Prime Minister Edi Rama defines it with a crucial epithet: Agriculture of Knowledge.
Problems? Yes, naturally. From the Blue Tongue, the Olive Diseases to excessive pesticide waste of the cucumbers. From the problems with wheat import with Kosovo to the Russian embargo for the export of Albanian agricultural products. And while it seems that these problems have been addressed, the Ministry of Agriculture has named the priority for 2015.
The coming year – Higher Expectations for Better Quality products
Again it will begin with ‘Produce Albanian, Trade Albanian’, but the new focus is on the higher standards and expectations. The Minister of Agriculture has declared the main priority for the coming year: Food safety. Standards and better quality under the umbrella of the Albanian brand identity.
The Minister of Agriculture Edmond Panariti, in one of the last Parliamentary sessions for 2014, promised that During 2015 the food safety labs will become more empowered, while the approach to increase the quality of the Albanian brand will continue, so that our products could be presented with dignity in European and global markets. The Ministry has a strategy on this; to delegate to the private operators the competencies of food safety, in order to achieve the standardization levels, required from the EU.
The European Union has forecast a € 9 million grant fund to support Albanian agriculture during 2015. From June 2014, Albania is a candidate for European Union membership. For agriculture this means European market. ‘Made in Albania’ has a challenge ahead, lots of dignity to show.