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Country report - Macedonia FYROM

Radomir Trajković, PROBIO


In 2006, about 500 hectares were under organic management in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, constituting about 0.4 % of the agricultural land.

The first serious (strategic, systematic) activities in the field of organic agriculture happened around the year 2000. The first organic inspection took place by the end of 2003, and the first organic certificate was issued in 2004. All this happened thanks to the FiBL/Swiss Development Cooperation project, and some initial organic kaki production activities were facilitated by the Swiss Import Promotion Programme SIPPO.

Back in 1997, one large pharmaceutical company – Alkaloid from Skopje – inspected its wild collection (linden, chamomile for the purpose of making an organic tea. Shortly afterwards they stopped all  activities related to organic. In 2007 year they renewed some organic activities.)

Currently, the FiBL/SDC project is by far the largest and the most important organic agriculture development project implemented. This project basically launched the organic movement, and more than 90% of the total organic production today is a direct result of the implementation of the FiBL/SDC project. Some other projects by other donor agencies also tackle the issue of organic agriculture, but they are mostly active in the field of training delivery, or policy development. They do not work with farmers, they do not develop the organic production, and they do not develop the organic markets.

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  • 1997
    The largest pharmaceutical company in the country a introduces several varieties of organic teas produced from wild collection to the market.
  • 1998
    First activities in the field of organic agriculture initiated by 4-5 farmers from the region of Ohrid, Kumanovo and Strumica, producing under the organic farming principles for the already secured market.
  • 1999
    Initial expertise is provided for drafting the legal bases for organic production.
  • 2000
    At the end of 2000 the first draft of the Organic Production Law is prepared with consultation of European experts on organic production.
  • 2001
    The government adopts the draft Law for Organic Production and passes it to the parliamentary procedure.
    The first organic production associations initiated and established.
    In frame of Environmental NGOs Support Program, the “Local Initiatives Support Project towards Organic Agriculture” is started.
  • 2002
    An introduction workshop for the importance of associations for organic agriculture and their National Union was organized.
    Regional cooperation in  organic agriculture is promoted through organizing several workshops entitled “Promotion of Organic Agriculture in the Balkans” for the period 2002- 2005. (The 1st workshop was held in September 2002 in Struga, the 2nd workshop was held in October 2003 in Ribaritza, Bulgaria; the 3rd workshop was held in September 2004 in Mali i Robit, Albania; the 4th  workshop was held in October 2005 in Budva, Montenegro).
  • 2003
    As a result of the successful completion of the “Local Initiatives towards Organic Agriculture” a decision is made to start an new project fully dedicated to organic agriculture development.
    Cross-border cooperation in the area of education and training, study visits, and publishing with Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Switzerland, etc.
    The first 13 organic farmers are inspected.
  • 2004
    The Law on Organic Agricultural Production is adopted by the Parliament in April 2004 (Official Gazette No. 16/2004) which requires furthermore the adoption of 12 by-laws.
    The first by-laws are adopted in December 2004 to establish an Advisory Coordination Commission on organic agriculture. The task of the Commission is to support the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Water Economy (MAFWE) in the development and implementation of the policies on organic agriculture and related activities.
    A training for the inspection of organic products according to EU Regulation 2092/91 is  held.
  • 2005
    The second by-law, the Organic Agriculture Support and Development Programme, is adopted in March 2005 and implemented in the same year. The Programme allocates funds to support 50 certified organic farmers based on land in conversion, inspection and certification costs and laboratory analyses.
    The State Agricultural Inspectorate is  trained for monitoring and supervision in organic agriculture. 
    The Fourth General Assembly of IFOAM ABM (Mediterranean branch of IFOAM) and the First International Conference on Soil Fertility and Diversity in the Mediterranean Agro–Eco–Systems is organized in Ohrid. Around 140 participants from 20 Mediterranean countries have the opportunity to exchange experiences and to present their current and future activities in organic agriculture.
    The monograph and guidelines for “Sustainable Use of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants according to the Principles of Organic Production” is published, and training for public enterprises and national parks authorities are organized.
    The organic inspection and certification body “Balkan Biocert” from Plovdiv, Bulgaria, opens its branch office in Skopje. 
  • 2006
    Three by-laws regulating the production standards in organic agriculture (plant production, animal production and processing; harmonized with EU Regulation  2092/91 are  adopted in June 2006 (the Official Gazette No. 60/2006).
    Training on the administration of applications for the organic programmes for the National Extension Agency (NEA) staff is organized.
    The initial workshop in the frame of the development of the National Action Plan is organized to analyze with the stakeholders the status quo, strengths and weaknesses, and the needs for further development of the organic agriculture sector.
    “Balkan Biocert” Skopje acquires national accreditation for operation. The Association of Producers of Organic Products “Biosan” is registered.

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Statistical Development

From 2004 to 2009, the organic farming sector in Macedonia demonstrated consistent growth. During this period, the land under organic agricultural management increased more than seventeen times. Recent data published by Eurostat shows that in 2009 99 organic farms were counted, an increase of 202 percent compared to 2004. 3'380 hectares  of land were organic. In 2009, the organically managed agricultural land was estimated at 0.24% of the total utilized agricultural area of Macedonia (Eurostat 2010).

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Cropping patterns

In 2009, the main use of organic agricultural land in Macedonia is permanent grassland 2'273 hectares (67%) followed by arable land 1107 hectares (33%). 

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Policy Framework

Strategic Documents: The following policy documents are covering issues related to organic production:

  • Stabilization and Association Agreement (2001) – social justice, employment and use of national resources for a sustainable development of the country.
  • Final Draft National Strategy for Agriculture and Rural Development - Status and needs for setting up an agri-environmental policy.
  • Strategy for the harmonization of the local agri-food sector with the European Union’s Common Agricultural Policy EU CAP – laying down the needs for the identification of regions eligible for organic production and harmonization with EU Regulations.
  • Agreement with World Trade Organization (2003) – improvement of international standards for food security and safety adopted by Codex Alimentarius. 
  • Second National Environmental Action Plan (adopted in 2006) – aiming at the mainstreaming of environmental concerns into agricultural development policy and Maintenance of high level basic natural resources essential for sustainable agricultural development.  Measures related to the achievement of these aims are a) the rational use of natural resources and the controlled use of fertilizers and pesticides, and b) the enhancement of organic production and improvement of the monitoring system. Accordingly, the establishment of an EU recognized certification system for organic products is defined.
  • The National Strategy for Biodiversity and Action Plan (adopted 2004) aims to conserve biodiversity and use biological resources in a sustainable manner for the welfare of the people, taking in consideration the unique natural values and the rich tradition of the Republic. In the Strategic approach C for sustainable use of biodiversity, the action for support of agri-environmental programmes is included, with the following activities/projects: a) stimulate and develop organic production as a means towards sustainable development (C.2.1.1); b) stimulate and develop production of cultivated indigenous medicinal and aromatic plants (C.2.1.2); and c) determine limits (optimal biological thresholds) for the use of biological resources (C.1.2.1).
  • The National Strategy for Sustainable Development (on going) – MEPP is a coordinating body for realization of the project activities, that will be implemented through the following phases: Phase I – analyses and assessment of related documents . 2) Phase II – sectoral strategic planning and  Phase III – national consolidation.

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Legal Framework

The following national legislation is providing the legal bases for the organic production:

  • The Law on Organic Agricultural Production, adopted in 2004, regulates the general provisions related to the production, processing, marketing and labelling of organic production and applies to all types of organic agricultural products intended for human consumption and animal feeding. The Law also provides the basic conditions for inspection and certification of organic agriculture. The reasons for the law are human health protection, biological diversity protection, consumer protection, guarantee of safety, food monitoring and quality.
  • The by-laws on the Law on Organic Agriculture provide a complete legal framework on the organic agriculture production.
  • The Law on Agricultural Development Support which makes way for annual financial Support Programmes to be established per sectors (agriculture, tobacco, organic production).

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Financial sources of conventional agriculture research have neglected the importance of organic research and should set up new specific criteria for funding research in organic programs.

Because of the differences in methods and relevance in conventional and organic farming, the proposals for research in organic faming did not match the existing criteria of research founds.

This led to an immediate action to include organic farming among the priorities of sectoral and national research programmes as a field with specific methodological approach.

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The main role of education in organic farming is to increase the level of public awareness, knowledge and information of organic issues among experts, farmers, and other stakeholders in the organic chain.

Organic farming has been scarcely present in the regular national educational system, as the result of which farmers had low level of knowledge about the organic agriculture, and the consumers insufficient understanding of the benefits from the organic food.

In spite of that, some positive initiatives took place in the regular educational system. For example, the concept of organic farming was introduced into the secondary agricultural schools through practical fieldwork on school training landfields. An Organic Forum was established with two representatives from each agricultural school – the idea is that these teachers become trained in organic farming techniques and responsible for implementation of organic farming activities through practical lessons in the schools. The Forum made sure each school implements particular organic activities which do not overlap other schools, so that all 8 schools together will cover several different aspects of organic farming (composting, vegetable production, grape production, animal husbandry, etc).

Finally, after more than a year of independent work on practical activities in the area of organic production, the Vocational Education Development Bureau, as part of the Ministry of Education and Science, endorsed the introduction of “Organic Agricultural Production” as a facultative subject in the fourth year of education in secondary agricultural schools from September 2007.

At an academic level only the Faculty of Agriculture and Food Science has a Department for Environmental Agriculture, which includes some modules related to organic farming.

Simultaneous efforts have been made to institutionalize the non-formal education through the establishment of e.g. the Center for Applied Research and Permanent Education in Agriculture which was founded to develop agriculture including organic agriculture, through strengthening of human capacities.

Non-formal education is a very useful tool in offering a solution of problems in organic agriculture, organic processing and technology transfer to all parties involved in the organic sector. Thus, establishment of educational centres and expert groups within non-formal education are complementary alternatives to formal education.

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Advisory Service

The advisory services are the key element in the organic farming development in the country, taking in consideration that this sub-sector is in the initial stage of its development with great possibilities to be further developed.  At the moment, the trainings for organic farming are very modest and limited, and short trainings usually are performed in foreign countries with support of international organizations and donor projects (GTZ, CIHEAM-IAMB, USAID, SLR and others). These trainings were delivered to the representatives of the Faculty for Agricultural Sciences and Food; the State Agricultural Inspectorate; the Research Institutes for Agriculture; Advisors of National Extension Agency; Independent advisors; Representatives of association; and NGOs.

Multipliers are an internally developed network of advisors on organic agriculture who operate within the Project on Organic Agriculture (PROBIO-FiBL). The team of six experts is geographically distributed across the country, and their primary task is to be in day-to-day contacts with the organic farmers in order to t rain the farmers in organic farming techniques; p repare the farmers for inspection; a dvise the farmers on current market demands for organic food; i dentify new farmers to join the organic movement; and e laborate and set up trials the results of which will be used to develop some organic farming techniques specific to the local climatic and other conditions.

In order to extend the multipliers' know-how in organic production, a series of training were conducted. These trainings covered different topics of organic farming: organic fruit production, organic grape production, organic bee keeping, introduction to organic animal husbandry, and also trainings on general principles in organic production, on the existing national regulations and private (commercial) standards for organic farming, on the historical development of the organic movements (IFOAM), etc. Further planned are training on organic vegetable production, organic pest and disease management, etc.

The advisory services are still not enough developed in accordance with the producers needs, particularly for the processors and exporters who call for the consultation in terms of improving their organic production. For the primary organic producer purposes, NEA is providing small advisory packages including general advice for organic production (bookkeeping, plans for production and rotations of crops, soil fertility, usage of seed materials, pests and diseases, etc.). 

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Processing and Trade

There are few processing companies operating in organic industry. Two companies are processing and trading wild collected products and producing for example dried herbs/tea and mushrooms preserved and processed fruits (mostly wild berries) as well as juices, juice concentrate and jams. Most of the production is export oriented, due to the limited local market in our county. Another company is producing vinegar. Furthermore there are some capacities for processing on the farmers level (e.g. honey, juice, bread, essential oils).

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Market Development

Organic production is still not developed sufficiently in volume and diversity as to be able to implement real marketing activities.

Most of such activities so far were aiming at the national promotion of organic food. In Prilep, Bitola and Rosoman over the past few years, and this year also in Skopje, organic marekt stands were opened where organic food was sold under the logo “Tasty Organic Food”.

With the purpose to promote organic food among consumers some events were organized, such as the Organic Day in Strumica.

Oorganic food from teh country was also internationally promoted at the Biofach fair in Nürnberg, Germany.

Other activities include selling freshly squeezed fruit juices in several cafe bars and direct selling of selected products (e.g. honey, bread, fruits) from farmers to supermarkets.

Since there is no continuous supply of domestic organic processed products in adequate quantities it not is possible to set attractive selling points. Furthermore most processing companies are demanding organic raw materials (not in conversion) and they have difficulties to process small and not standardized quantities of organic products. Fresh vegetables and fruits are often sold as conventional since the costs for distribution in the organic supply chain are high and there are limited financial recourses in the primary producer.

A positive example for joint marketing export activity is organic kaki. The group of organic kaki producers from an association in Valandovo have standardized their product and achieved marketable quantities for export on the EU and Swiss market. In order to be competitive, in the future, organic producers need to plan jointly and organize better access on domestic and international markets.

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Organic Farmers’ Associations

Back in 2001 organic farmers started organizing themselves locally in civil associations.

In 2003 these local associations joined together in a national organic federation, called Biomak, headquartered in Kavadarci. Soon the federation was joined by trade companies and processing facilities, which were interested in processing and trade of organic food, but also by associations which only declared they intended to do organic production, but had not regulated such an intention legally (with their Statutes, etc.).

Such developments were not welcomed by the farmers i.e. by the producers of the primary agricultural production. Therefore, in July 2006 a new – purely farmers’ and purely organic – federation was registered, the national federation of Associations of Producers of Organic Products “Biosan”, headquartered in Skopje.

At the moments Biosan brings together 8 local organic associations from Valandovo, Gevgelija, Strumica, Pehčevo, Sveti Nikole, Kumanovo, Skopje and Gostivar. It operates on the entire territory of the country. Biosan is open to admit new member organizations as long as they can fulfil the minimum criteria for admission – to be registered in court as organic associations (de jure) and to have in their own membership at least one farmer who has received an organic certificate for their production (de facto). 

Biosan’s primary role is to guide and coordinate the activities of local organic farmers’ associations, according to the Development Strategy of the Federation.

Biosan’s activities are mainly focused on:

  • Compilation of a general, common and unified data base of organic producers and products;
  • Education and training of own advisors;
  • Advisory services in organic agriculture;
  • Advisory services on utilization of agricultural land on economic, ecological and sustainable principles;
  • Marketing of organic products on domestic and foreign markets;
  • Establishment of distribution links and common purchase of allowed inputs;
  • International cooperation with similar organizations; and
  • Educational and training of other clients.

At the moment Biosan is the basic, the biggest and the leading engine of the organic movement. As such, Biosan is in close cooperation with the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and water Economy, Ministry of Environmental and Physical Planning, with research and education institutions, and with other relevant players in the sector. Biosan also develops fruitful cooperation with international donor projects dealing with organic agriculture.

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Inspection and Certification

According to the national law on organic agriculture has the expert control of organic producers, processors and traders to be conducted by registered inspection bodies. These bodies must have headquarters in the country, employ at least three staff persons and be accredited. Until June 2007, two inspection bodies are offering organic certification:

Balkan Biocert which has been accredited in 2006 by the accreditation institute in charge, and INCEBO, which has applied for accreditation in the field of organic agriculture.


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Radomir Trajković, PROBIO, Skopje


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