Agriculture is a main source of employment and income in the Albanian rural areas, contributing 21% to GDP in the country and representing 43.3% of the workforce (data W.B. 2014). Albania’s farming sector has been dominated by small private holdings since 1991, when peasant farmers disbanded the quasi-state collective farms.
Despite the progress made so far, Albania is still challenged by low productivity of agriculture and underdeveloped rural areas. Farming is labour intensive with low levels of labour productivity and efficiency as a result of low level of technological advancement and insufficient adoption of know-how. Also, neither the public nor producers have adequate knowledge of the environmental and food safety standards in farming and primary food processing.
Previous assistance under IPA I included support for the definition of the sector policy, with particular reference to capacity building activities to set up the administrative structures for the future management of the IPA II rural development (IPARD) programmes. Capacities have been consolidated in a learning-by-doing exercise, where the national structures in conjunction with external expertise provided funding for co-financing IPARD-like measures, i.e. small and medium scale investments in the agro-food sector. IPA I support also focused on capacity building in the area of food safety and veterinary services, incl. improving national and local laboratory infrastructure. Overall, the IPA I support to the sector included close to EUR 90 million. Other donors supporting agriculture and rural development include the World Bank, UN agencies, Germany, Sweden and Italy.
The future is to transform agriculture from subsistence-oriented production into a modern, commercial, and competitive sector, while fostering alternative income opportunities for rural residents exiting the sector. Competitiveness can be improved through increased productivity and higher-quality products. At the same time, agriculture policy reform should be conducted within the context of current and future EU requirements, including harmonization with EU legislation and standards.
Therefore, one of the priority sectors under IPA II is Agriculture & Rural Development, where funds allocated aim at:
- More competitive farming and food sector
- application of food safety standards
- better quality of life in rural areas.
To this end our services are focusing on the capacity building, on strengthening the relative administrative structures, on the provision of sustainable solutions and on harmonization with E.U. legislation in order to optimize access to European market opportunities.