Albania has a great potential to offer a diverse range of typical products, most of which derive from the ancient tradition but still made with the same care and love as in the past. Some of the typical products are organically produced and the Ministry of Agriculture is working closely with the Organic Agriculture Association to promote the certification of these products that are on high demand from local and foreign consumers mainly in the tourist areas. The list of typical products is long and this project is trying to valorise them best for the high nutritional values they have at the benefit of Albanian and foreign consumers.
Mountain Areas Development Agency - AlbaniaLead applicant
The Mountain Areas Development Programme (MADP), an IFAD–initiated programme co-financed with the Government of Albania, Netherlands Development Organisation (SNV), Italian Cooperation and the Department for International Development (DfID) of the United Kingdom, was designed against the backdrop of the financial emergency and resulting economic, political and humanitarian crises caused by the collapse of informal lending schemes that took place in Albania in the mid-‘90s. The programme, which became effective in 2001, and aimed at addressing the serious challenges facing poor people living in the mountain areas, such as low productivity, small farm sizes, limited access to financial services and weak market linkages. The overall objective of the programme is to raise the standards of living in the target populations through greater agricultural production and productivity, better household food security, increased incomes from agricultural and related rural enterprises, and improved infrastructure. The project was structured around a multifaceted strategy that included support to financial services, agricultural and agri-business development, and institutional strengthening.
Ministry of Agriculture, Rural Development and Water Administration - AlbaniaInitiative partner
It is a governmental entity which has on is focus: Agriculture and livestock; rural development, water administration, advisory servise for farmers, fisheries, irrigation and drainage, food safety...
Agricultural University of Tirana, Faculty of Agriculture and Environment - AlbaniaInitiative partner
Faculty of Agriculture and Environment aims at becoming a modern contemporary center for undergraduate and graduate studies, scientific research and training and preparing specialist in the field of agriculture and food. It aims at becoming a referring point for the rural and agriculture development by directly contributing to the European integration of the country. The mission of the Faculty of Agriculture and Environment is to realize professional training of specialist in the field of agriculture and environment, promote respective departments and academic staff in facing time challenges such as: forecasting of food resources, sustainable development of agriculture, protection and regeneration of resources, traditional use of productive resources, provision of ecologically clean products, food safety etc., through active participation of students and academic staff in more advanced education, research and training programmes.
Merging organic agriculture with the production of traditional/typical food products in Albania is still in its initial phases but the trend is positive and the share of these products is increasing. The first step was to identify typical products and establish their geographical identity (GI). This involves a number of cultivated plants like vegetables, fresh herbs and spices, fruit trees, grapes, olives etc as well as various medicinal and aromatic plants. Despite of being a small country, Albania has also a great potential to offer a wide range of these typical products and most of them are still produced in traditional way by low input farming. Rural population represents about 50% of the total population and agriculture still remains an important component of the country’s economy. The major part of the agricultural production goes for self-consumption and only about 30% of it is destined for internal market. However, over the last yeas exports are also increasing. Small farm size and great diversification are very common characteristics of the Albanian agriculture, especially in hilly and mountainous areas, which cover ¾ of the whole territory. Albania earned in June 2014 the status of EU candidate country and is in the process towards EU accession. Therefore, focusing in the food and agriculture sector quality improvement in accordance with EU requirements for food quality and safety is a priority for the national Government. This could strengthen the position of local producers in the national and international market
Innovating traditional knowledge is not easy. However, the best innovation strategy that was followed looked at the marketing aspects of typical products by making them visible to local consumers, mostly young ones that were not aware of the “treasures” of their country. Next was the marketing strategy for foreign visitors that come to Albania to spend their holidays as the country is becoming a real hub for tourists, especially during summer. Such initiatives have been supported by the Ministry of Agriculture and the GIZ German Cooperation initiative to explore the possibilities of expanding the development of the rural tourism and promotion of typical products.
Below is the list of some important typical products identified in Albania.
Honey from Puke region - produced in Puka region where the virgin nature and rich biodiversity contribute to the nutritional values of honey sold mostly in the Tirana and Durres markets.
Mountain honey (produced mostly in Tropoja / Korca regions) has also a good reputation throughout Albania despite considerable quantities are already being exported providing very good income sources for the small mountain communities.
Tropoja Chestnuts - collected in Tropoja forests where the characteristics of the Albanian Alps contribute to the freshness and special taste of the product (sweet). Certified internationally as organic, these chestnuts are already a great success story in big cities such as Tirana, Elbasan and Durres as well as for the international market.
Jufka (Pasta/Noodles) from Peshkopia / Diber - homemade pasta, typical product of Peshkopia Region which is characterized by a traditional way of processing. The artisanal cooking recipe that includes ingredients such as eggs, milk and flour is what ads value and gives a comparative advantage towards competitor Jufka coming from Macedonia.
Goat cheese from Peshkopia / Diber - produced in Peshkopia from a traditional race of goat (Bulashi; originating from the region) which gives a special and unique taste to cheese. Very much preferred by consumers, as shown by the fact that the entire quantity produced is already sold at the dairy farm. The cheese from "Bulashi" race of goats is recognised as having a specific quality, and has been awarded prizes in various national competitions.
Garlic from Malesia e Madhe – Local variety of garlic grown in Malesia e Madhe and supposed to have a particular and well appreciated taste. It was reintroduced and promoted by an Albanian NGO “Permacultura”.
White potatoes from Kukes – Variety of potato characterised by a white colour (even after cooking) and specific taste, grown in Kukes region and well appreciated. It is often known as “country potato”.
Kallmet grape/wine - Lezha is a very old native grape variety of Albania. Its production area is in the traditional region in the foothills of Shkodra and Lezha. This grape variety is known by wine makers from other denominations as Gjashore Zadrimore Kallmet etc. The wine produced from this variety has a dark colour and dense texture with a strong aroma of grape, which evokes the smell of the violet flower. An important historical fact from the Middle Ages shows that taxes were paid to the Vatican in wine Kallmet. In a wine exhibition held in France in 1984 the Albanian wine Kallmet received the gold medal.
Kallmet olives-Geographical area: is the plain region of Lezha and Shkodra. Kallmet is the name of a village in this region. The percentage of oil which can be extracted from this olive variety is 22-23% and the productivity of the cultivar is good. It is relatively resilient to cold weather and well adopted to local ecological conditions.
Mushrooms from Reç (Malesia e Madhe) highly demanded and exported in France. Mushrooms grow on the chestnut forestland covered by heavy loads of chestnut leaves and branches. These typical white fungi are mostly exported no matter than in high quality Tirana and Durres restaurants they are in high demand.
Medicinal and wild herbs from the Albanians Alps – Wild Herbs (such as calendula, wild sage, oregano, parsley, etc.) for tisanes, medicine and cooking are found in every corner of Albania’s big and small cities thanks to their high qualities (taste and medicinal properties).
Carp of Shkodra (“Tave Krapi Shkodrane) –it is well known in many restaurants surrounding the Shkodra lake bordering Montenegro and many Tirana tourists drive 120 km to taste this particular fish dish.
Inclusion of GI-s as means of promoting rural development could help producers get better prices for their products in exchange for guarantees offered to consumers on production methods and quality. They also allow a better redistribution of added value throughout the production chain from raw material producer to the processor and provide value to the region of origin by increasing production, creating local jobs and prevent rural exodus. Similarly commercial tools are effective because they encourage variety and diversity of production and allow producers to market different products with clearly identifiable characteristics.
GI qualification is justified for a product when its link with its origin leads to specific quality attributes which differentiate it from similar products from other geographic zones of production. Local natural and cultural resources give to the product an identity, a characteristic that consumers want to recognise when they buy such products. This process is still in development and is expected to provide additional support to the production and marketing of Albania’s typical products.
The main beneficiaries are the farmers of the remote rural communities that benefit from the marketing of these products as the only way for them to survive in such harsh climatic and geographical conditions. Next are the customers who benefit for the high nutritional values of these products. Then there is the whole chain of traders and restaurant owners that see an increase in their business and better profits. Indirectly the third winner is the environment and the biodiversity conservation, as well improved soil quality through the incorporation in the soil of organic manure and erosion control through a permanent vegetation cover.
There are dozens of people who are working in the regions where the traditional products are identified.
These products face the same the problems of the agribusiness sector in Albania such as (i) weak communication infrastructure, (ii) inadequate information, training and expertise in new agricultural technologies, (iii) lack of certification and labelling of products, (iv) lack of marketing (v) lack of access to a wider market and (vi) high transport costs. The strength then relies in the quality of such products as more than ever local consumers inquire for apples of Korca and Peshkopia, potatoes from Kukes, cheese from Gjirokastra, raki from Permet, olives from Berati, olive oil from Himara and honey from Tropoja etc.
However, still Albanian products face the competition of the imported foodstuff either from neighbouring countries and/or from other EU member states entering into the Albanian market. Otherwise, even same cheaper products such as vegetables produced inside Albania, but in the flatland near big cities are another obstacle to the expansion of slightly costly typical products. It for these reasons that more aggressive campaigns are needed to promote the distribution and marketing of such products.
The most important environmental impact is related to the way these products are grown, free from pesticides and other chemicals. Consequently biodiversity is better preserved and soil fertility has improved. Experience shows that these traditional production systems have survived over the centuries thanks to the equilibrium established between the soil, crops and nature. The natural environment in rural Albania is still largely unspoiled comprising an important national resource and a potential source of income for its people that instead of abandoning it have made a difficult choice to stay and reserve millenary traditions of soil management and crop production and finally to offer consumers high quality products.
Several training programs have been organized with the support of different donors to provide simple knowledge to many farmers throughout the country. The Albanian government is committed to imply all the EU Regulations (such as 509/2006 and 510/2006) on Agricultural & Food Traditional Specific Products and to protect the domestic traditional products from unfair competition
Dissemination of the values of traditional typical products of Albania has been done during the agricultural fairs organised in the country and thanks to great attention from the local media, especially TV shows, the number of consumers of these products has increased notably over the last five years.