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Country Report - Albania 2007

For updated country information see sector study on Albania 2011, published by the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL).

The country

Albania, ‘the country of the eagles’, is one of the smallest countries in Europe. Very isolated during the last decade of the communist era its economy was close to collapse when communist rule ended in 1992. The following few years, marked by enormous political and economic turbulences, saw a land distribution process that resulted in the creation of 460'000 family farms with an average size of less than 1 hectare.

The 1990s also saw Albania’s first tentative steps towards organic agriculture. They started with Albanian experts travelling abroad to learn about organic agriculture and foreign experts coming into the country to instruct and lecture on topics such as ecology, environmental issues and biodiversity.

The constraining effect the country’s infrastructure has had on the development of organic agriculture has been balanced against Albania’s comparative natural advantages. With favourable geographic and climatic conditions – an average yearly temperature of 16°C in the costal areas, suitable soil and good water availability for irrigation – Albania has an optimal base for organic agriculture to thrive.

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History organic farming in Albania

In 1997 the Organic Agriculture Association of Albania (OAA) was founded by a group of specialists in different fields of organic agriculture from universities, research and political institutions. Their aim was to promote sustainable production methods during the transition from state to privately organised agricultural production.

OAA became the first Albanian member organisation of IFOAM in 1998. The association implemented various projects on sustainable agriculture with financial support from different international donors.

In 2001, a bigger project was initiated. Financed by the Swiss government (SDC) and with technical expertise and management from FiBL (Swiss Research Institute on Organic Agriculture) the main aim of the project was to support rural development through improved market access of high value produce.

Through these initiatives organic production techniques, with a focus on vegetable, fruit, grape and olive production, were developed and disseminated throughout the country. Organic livestock production was soon included in the work. It was not long before the first fresh herbs and spices were exported to Switzerland followed by the export of a high quality olive oil in 2004. At the same time the local market for organic produce was also developed and supported so that stalls in the green markets in Tirana, Albania’s capital city, started selling a small range of fresh and processed organic products. 

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Organic famers associations

Today Albania has a number of organisations active in the field of organic agriculture. They cover the whole range of services, including consultancy, market development and inspection/certification, and are deeply involved in improving conditions for organic production through lobbying work as well as research.

The oldest organisation is the Organic Agriculture Association OAA, which was established on 13 June 1997 by 22 agricultural specialists and farmers. The core members are farmers and groups of farmers, who were already organic or becoming organic. In addition, other members are university teachers, researchers, businessmen and other individuals involved or interested in becoming involved in Albania’s organic movement. The central office of OAA is in Tirana, where six people are employed full-time. OAA has members from all over the country, a country-wide network of experts in agriculture and rural development, and branches in other Albanian cities.

BioAdria was established in 2005 as an umbrella association for organic operators, such as farmers, processors, traders and consumers. Its aim is to develop a sustainable and environmentally-friendly agriculture. With close cooperation with FiBL (Research Institute of Organic Agriculture, Switzerland) it acts as an extension service provider through on-farm consultancy as well as training sessions. It also carries out on-farm research activities to further develop organic production in Albania still further. BioAdria has three full time extension agents, two marketing experts and two support staff. The association regularly publishes information material on organic production techniques and research activities.

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Policy and regulations

Organic farming in Albania is regulated by a law, approved by the People’s Assembly Law no. 9199 of 26.2.2004 on the production, processing, certification and marketing of ‘bio’ products. The law, which was drafted with assistance from foreign donors, received many contributions from members of the organic movement and was coordinated by the Albanian Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Consumer Protection. The law is not yet fully implemented.

The local authorities also identified the potential of organic agriculture in Albania and are now actively supporting its development. In 2006, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Consumer Protection (MoAFCP) initiated the development of an action plan regarding the support and implementation of organic production in Albania. This is expected to be finalised in 2008. In 2007, MoAFCP supported the participation of Albanian companies at BioFach in Nürnberg, Germany.

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Inspection and Certification

Albinspekt is the only Albanian inspection/certification body. Albinspekt provides a complete service in the inspection of organic products and other food quality systems according to Albanian and private (e.g. Bio Suisse) standards and to the European Regulation.

Founded in 2006, the certification body is located in Tirana where it has a total of three staff members. Albinspekt has certified and inspected more than 60% of the produce sold in local markets, and is currently preparing an application for national accreditation. Albinspekt is cooperating with bio.inspecta for certification of products for international markets, such as Switzerland. With an eye on the future when it will have no donor support, Albinspekt is trying to become profitable by extending the range of services it offers.

Alongside Albinspekt, other foreign certification bodies also operate in the country, these include bio.inspecta, BCS, Öko Garantie, CERES, ICEA and Italian Codex. BCS, CERES, SKAL and Italian Codex have certified exporters of medicinal plants and essential oils, while bio.inspecta (in collaboration with Albinspekt) has certified fresh spices and organic olive oil for export to Switzerland.

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Marketing initiatives on national und international level

The small size of the average farm in Albania is a serious limitation to agricultural development. Most crops are essentially grown for self consumption and only 30% of the harvested produce is destined for selling in market. It has become a priority to ensure the domestic market is fully supplied with Albanian produce without conflicting with the improvements in the export market. However, in recent years a growing demand for locally produced organic products in Albanian markets has been observed.

In 2006, about 13,700 hectares, including wild collection areas, were managed organically and certified. According to the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Consumer Protection there were about 90 farms certified organic, producing medicinal plants, olive oil, fruit (apple, pears, grapes and peaches), vegetables (tomatoes, paprika, cucumber, spinach and aubergines). Smaller quantities of eggs, cheese, honey, wine and meat are also produced. The largest number of farms are located near the bigger cities (Tirana and Durrës), which also have the biggest markets for organic products. (For latest statistics see data compilation by FiBL and IFOAM).

To a certain extent Albanian products have been available in international markets for some years now, and growers are using Albania’s potential for organic production to access new markets. Producers/traders have been participating in international fairs, steadily enlarging their buyers network. One successful pioneer is the organic olive oil produced by Shpresa Shkalla. This was selected as the best quality oil among 200 countries in two international competitions in Italy in 2005 and 2006 (PremBiol). Albanian organic herbs and spices are also increasingly in demand, and an initiative to supply the Western markets with winter vegetables was successfully launched. Organic essential oils from Albania are exported to EU countries as well as to the US Market.

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Organic Logo

This sign, which is displayed on carton boxes, informs the consumers that the products are produced and certified as bio products.

The logo is prepared by the BioAdria Organisation and Marketing Department Unit with the support of the SASA project, financed by Swiss Government and implemented by FiBL in Albania.

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Other efforts to develop organic farming in Albania

Organic farming has been supported by donors’ agencies and international organisations and has benefited from activities carried out through the projects. Assistance from projects like SASA (Sustainable Agriculture Support in Albania), financed by the Swiss Government and implemented in Albania by FiBL Institute Switzerland, have contributed towards strengthening the know-how of Albanian experts and farmers in organic farming techniques. These projects have provided on the job training to the farmers and extension officers, as well as inputs such as organic fertilisers and seeds.

Focusing on sustainable agriculture, fair trade and small-holder groups, national and international donors/agencies, like Oxfam, SNV, FAO, REC, have contributed considerably to the development of the organic sector through projects like the PAB Project under INTERREG III. Thus, organic farming has entered into the agenda of the main donors operating in Albania. This has helped to increase the awareness and sympathy of political stakeholders, which are open-minded to organic agriculture. Organic agriculture is gaining momentum in the political, social and scientific arena in Albania.

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Addresses

Addresses related to organic farming in Europe are available at the Organic Europe address database where they can be searched by keyword and category.

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Author

Anula Guda, coordinator of the SASA Project, Tirana, Albania, until 2009. This  project is implemented by FiBL, Switzerland.

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Date of report

This article was written in 2007. 

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