Islam is the world’s largest religion and the fastest growing one, with a global Muslim population estimated in 2009 at approximately 1.82 billion people. Increasing awareness of Muslim consumers on their religious obligations creates greater demand for halal food and other similar meat products. Within this context, Albania has great potential for rapidly developing its sheep and goat livestock sector and especially for the development of “halal meat value chains”. The rapid growth of the halal food demand inside the country, in the region and globally offer enormous prospects and opportunities for the quick development of the small ruminants sector. Muslim countries are already emerging as a major promising market for Albanian sheep and goat meat exports. The country has long tradition in the small ruminants sector, a semi extensive meat production system which is totally organic and offer high quality meats able to compete in the world’s markets.
Agriculture Technology Transfer Center, Fushe Kruje - AlbaniaLead applicant
Applied research activities/technology development in the sector of agriculture, livestock, land&water, integrated farm management. Technology transfer activities as well as know-how in agriculture and livestock production. Scientific and technical information activities. Specialization and training activities. Charged activities with laws and regulations. Studies and proposals on specific activities.
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...
Agriculture Technology Transfer Center, Korce - AlbaniaInitiative partner
Identification and testing of new inputs and technologies in agriculture practices for the fruit trees, potatoes, small ruminants in the mountain area. Preparation of the technological packages for the fruit trees, small ruminants, potatoes ets, Production and distribution of the animal material controlled and of high genetic values for the small ruminants and cow in the mountain region.
Providing Halal meat to millions of people in the Muslim countries as well to Muslims living in the EU and other parts of the world offers tremendous opportunities for Albania’s small ruminants producers. It must be noted also that this category is one of the poorest in the country, often living in remote mountainous regions suffering hard from migration and abandonment mostly from the young people that are not interested to devote their life of being shepherds. Hence increasing income and offering employment opportunities contributes to the development of these regions.
Small ruminant sector in Albania remains largely very traditional and this satisfy the demands of the market that require high quality meat classified as organic. Therefore, no major innovations are reported. However, the sector needs a better veterinary service, better stables, increased drinking water reservoirs in the mountainous areas and improved slaughtering warehouses that would guarantee the marketing of high quality meat products.
Local breeds are well adapted to the Albanian climate and the local management practices. They are able to use limited food resources during winter or dry summer periods, to move for long distances during transhumance and resist diseases and parasites. Many breeders prefer local breeds however, the productivity of these breeds is low and the potential is limited, although not yet fully exploited. There is room here for breed improvement as another important innovation component.
In order to secure truly halal sheep and goat meat from the supplying farms, this project would seek to implements various activities such as:
• identification and selection of farms and farmers which have potential for production of good quality halal food;
• develop clear procedures and guidelines related to steps/practices to be strictly applied by farmers in rearing animals in order to comply with religious requirements and the halal conceptual and procedural issues (including selection of animal breeds, animal feeding ingredients and practices, animal welfare and safety conditions, etc.);
• implement requirement training and capacity building activities in order to capacitate/empower farmers/producers in application of the required steps/practices that would need to be followed during the whole production system;
• implementation of a certification system for the selected halal meat producers;
• development and introduction of necessary contract farming and supply arrangement with the selected certified farmers/producers based on transparency, trust and enforcement rules.
The main results achieved are related to the overall development of the livestock production system of small ruminants that are generally very well adapted to the geographic and climatic conditions of Albania. The sector brings value also to the natural grasslands, improve their soil fertility and provide high quality grazing grasses to the animals. Lambs for instance have slow growth rates, low fat level and an excellent taste, highly required by the market. The extensive production system satisfy consumer’s expectations for naturally grown animals. The traditional production model is set to minimize costs and inputs, not to increase the output; given such objective, it is fairly efficient in the local conditions but not fitted to intensive production. Small flocks, between 10 and 50 heads, are still very numerous and the production is fragmented. Producers are mostly individual keepers, often middle-aged or elderly. However in various regions in the country, an increasing number of more professional and commercial holdings (superior to 100 heads) has shown better performance in terms of production. It remains to be seen if the quality is equal and how that could affect the selling meat prices.
Main beneficiaries are local communities of the mountainous areas of the country mostly located in the South, South East, North East and North West. They are the poorest in Albania as their major sources of income derive from what nature has to offer: small ruminants, medicinal and aromatic herbs, honey production and forestry by-products. Other beneficiaries include the network of traders, butchers and the restaurant owners spread throughout the country. Indirectly, other beneficiaries are the thousands of Muslim people outside Albania that appreciate the quality of Halal meat they consume. An additional positive effect derive from the marketing of high quality leather that is much required by the world’s markets.
Human resources include tens of shepherds spread throughout the country and the experts of the Agricultural University of Tirana, Veterinary Faculty that provide technical assistance for the development of the small ruminants sector. Other human resources include the traders network, the collective slaughterhouses and the butchers.
Main difficulties relate to the improved conditions of the slaughterhouses and the increased controls from the Governmental Veterinary Service that must certify the quality of the meat traded in the local market and for the export. The largest amount of sheep and goat Halal meat sold in the local market is done through the traders that control 42 % of the market. The rest is either consumed by the farmers themselves or by the small scale retailers and butchers that sell meat at their shops. They are all equipped with refrigerating facilities.
The greatest environmental concerns are related to pollution derived from the by-products coming from slaughterhouses such as blood processing. From the positive side, the development of the small ruminant sector in Albania has positive effects on the quality of grasslands when grazing is done following traditional practices. Unfortunately, during the summer many of these grazing areas are burned creating severe problems of destruction of vegetation cover and increased erosion. This project has engaged actively towards increasing awareness between the shepherds to preserve the grazing lands from any form of abuse and destruction.
Production of high quality Halal sheep and goat meat is spreading quickly around Albania. Data show that in mountain areas of Korçe, Kukes, Diber, Elbasan, Malesi e Madhe and Shkoder the number of animals is growing and the mean sheep and goat flock size at about 30 animals however the number change also between the single farms. For example the region of Gjirokaster has a constant distribution of sheep and goats farms in the range between 20 and 200 animals, in some cases even more than 400 animals. The increased levels of production demonstrate the positive effects of the project.
Technical assistance is provided by the experts of the Agricultural University of Tirana to train farmers on how to apply veterinary regulations and keep the animals in good health. But the best way of dissemination have been the direct contacts between the shepherds themselves. The project has produced also various simple brochures written in Albanian in a simple language where the major guidelines for the well growing of animals and the procedures for producing Halal meat are clearly identified.