Albania and the Future CAP

Albania and the Future CAP
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The story tells that on Ottoman Europe, the Balkan peasants, perhaps the Romanians, engineered a new variety of maize. In that time, the taxes imposed by the middleman or "shark lands" were at the maximum, therefore the peasants invented this dreadful maize variety knowing it was one grain that rapacious tax officers would not seize, finding there was no market for it. This way the peasants would keep the whole production and use it themselves making an awful maize mush named "mamaliga", the bad mother you call this food, as children hated it, by the way the blame was on ... the mother.
Beyond the folklore, the story may highlight also "the entrepreneur" spirit of peasants and farmers that want to maximize their outcome and keep as much as possible for themselves as every entrepreneur in every other situation all over the world. Ask for this the young users of the computers, and they will say "bad father" you bought me a computer with conflicting drivers, with viruses, worms, malware, I want a better one.
Stories and experiences like the above, the hunger, the very question will I have enough food tomorrow were the bases for the beginning of CAP. And the stories goes that the CAP became a good mother, so good that we constantly ask what’s wrong with it that is so good?
So, I will reflect about the future of the CAP and Albania, but being indeed in a different position from the EU countries papers, Albania is not covered by CAP. The country has applied in 2009 for the candidacy and aspire to get there soon.

Albanian agriculuture

Albanian agriculture continues to be dominated by small farms (350,000), the average size of household farms is 1.14 ha. Only 11,5% of farms are above 2 ha. Agriculture has a vital role in the Albanian economy, accounting for about of 20 % of GDP but is still underdeveloped. Rural areas hosts half the country population who rely on agriculture, livestock, fforestry and other rural activities for their livelihoods. During the transition small farmers were left alone to experiment and carry on the costs. Farmers receive very little support and there are limited investments in agriculture infrastructure and advisory services. Moving from subsistence to marketing their produce continues to be a real challenge for small farmers in Albania. Only about 20- 30% of agricultural production is marketed.
Furthermore, one of the crucial source of cash comes from remittances sent home by young migrants working in EU countries (many of them on working on EU agriculture). This have been critical both for supporting the livelihood and especially for investments made in agriculture in country, in terms of capital but also know-how.
With the EU member states being the main trading partners, in fact one of the main problems for Albanian farmers is the competition with agriculture production of the EU. Albania imports of agriculture production and food accounts for more than 500 million Euro/per year, naturally it cannot produce everything, but agro and food export is less than 1/10 of the import and amongst other the country imports products such as vegetables, fruits and dairy that have a good production potential locally, that generally when on the market have higher price than the import, cause of the perceived better quality by the consumers, and many other comparative advantages.
One of the main problems expressed constantly by the Albanian farmers is the security to sell. The sale, the finalizing of the product is the big unknown for the unanimity of the farmers. A CAP that would support the selling and to add value to the products is the very base of development for farmers. This doesn’t mean to link the production quantity with subsidies, neither guaranteed prices, not protectionisms, but it demands for policies that support farmers: first to be recognised by the CAP itself, the economy and the society that they are farmers, to be able to reach the market; with policies and measures to improve and meet the ever increasing requested standards for the product to enter the market. And after let the market decide.
Albanian farmers accept the competition because they grew in a open, unprotected, and almost savage market, totally unsubsidized fro many years thus developing entrepreneur spirit and risk taking attitudes but still the linkages with market and the business are ad hoc and underdeveloped. The market connection remain the most important issue yet for farmers and processors, but also for traders and consumers.
The CAP should support the organization of the market offer of the small farmers by the ways well known, as example:

  • of functioning producers organizations;
  • of strong and real cooperation between the farmers, but here the necessary climate must be created first legally and socially;
  • the marketing, storage facilities;
  • of the needed information and the real support to reach higher and higher market standards.

Albania and CAP measures

But we must put a parenthesis here. Property rights and registrations of land property are the precondition for Albanian agriculture and rural development. Uncontested land property is the base for the development of market economy and overcoming this barrier definitively and quickly remains the priority of the national government in order to project the Albanian agriculture towards the European one.

  • Single payment scheme as it is currently applied in EU, given the small size of the majority of the farms, the big number of such and the absence of historical or regional payments, make it difficult if not impossible to be applied in Albania. In the best case this would turn into an indirect social assistance scheme.
  • Policies and measures that support,
    • land consolidation, prohibit a further land fragmentarisation, support to the land market,
    • the cooperation, e.g. cooperatives of producers, agroprocessers, or sellers,
    • the facilitation of access to finance, e.g. through facilitated credit

    and supported agriculture specific insurances along with support for functional systems of irrigation and drainages can on the other hand boost production and create fair bases for competition within the economy.

  • Stimulation of off farming activities in areas such as example renewable energy (and energy efficiency) will contribute directly to the cost of production and living. This is a virgin and big territory and an adequate strategy for Albania given for e.g. high potential for solar energy, the missing infrastructure for natural gas distribution, the global rising demand for energy and the consecutive rising price will give impressive results if applied. Otherwise the pressure on the forests and on the biomass, the usage of wood for house heating and energy for agro processing will bring them to the extinction, as happened in many areas, with the first visible and grave problem of massive landslides that are effecting large areas, destroying houses, infrastructure and cultivable land, but mining the fundaments of the what is considered "immobiliar", the land.
  • More support for Research and Development, farmers training and technical assistance both on farming and farmers multiple role will remain crucial given the large number of small scale farmers and the diversity of agriculture and off farm production they are or might be engaged in. This will also help to counterweight the cyclical risks and project the rural economy on to the future.
  • Improving the environment and supporting land management remains the base for rural and agriculture development. In Albania expansionists policies and practices of the socialist era followed by chaotic and aggressive exploitative practices towards natural resources and land use of the transition period have effected very negatively the resources in rural areas and the mindset of people towards the environment and nature. Addressing this at all levels it is vital for Albania and a future CAP should include measures to protect natural resources at community level but simultaneously to provide for the development of institutional capacities at the local and national levels.
  • In Albania, farming continues to be considered solely as the main productive activity on the rural areas. CAP should support the multifunctionality of the farms and the multiple roles of farmers, for the environment, the biodiversity, the conservation of nature, the preservation of water resources, the preservation of rural amenties, the preservation of the land vitality and other natural and human created resources. On the current state of the things, farmers have no choice, but also quite all of the rural businesses, to pressurize to the maximum the exploiting of these existing resources. If they are not supported and channelized by other carefully designed and targeted not only financial support, through formative approaches and by an energetic and vigorous enforcement by the institutions of the law these resources will arrive soon at a non returning point.
  • The stimulation of off farming activities in areas such as renewable energy, agro tourism, health care farms, etc is essential.
  • Sustainable development is linked with the how is applied and how mature is the democracy on any given country. In Albania the democratization should be a continuous process. Axis Leader is especially important to increase and improve community and stakeholder participation in bottom up approaches not only for the economic development but also for social cohesion and democracy through direct participation in decisions making and direct collaboration between public institutions businesses and communities.
  • In the case of Albania, with inexperienced and under resourced local government, it is difficult that sustainable rural development policies become priority if promoted only through local government, therefore the role of CAP remains critical to cover big parts of it.

Experience of the countries with new democratic systems still not functional at full steam and recent crisis not only economical in the EU countries demonstrates that farmers and citizens can be more protected and helped upon when a crisis strike if we are based on shared and agreed democratically EU policies and structures, rather than on distortions of these policies by local popularist and vote searching politicians.


The future CAP will be one the policies of the EU that will influence the most not only indirectly, but also directly the Albanian society given the large number of people living and who base their livelihood on the agriculture, rural areas and rural activities.
The actual CAP but also a future CAP is not copy paste replicable in Albania. Very ad hoc measures are needed. This measures should undergo a wide democratic process of designation, discussion and negotiation through all of the society and the stakeholders.
What Albania need the most are the right agricultural and rural development policies and the right framework.
A wider process of consultation and exchanging experiences, networks, etc especially between the new EU member states with strong similarities, like Bulgaria, Rumania, etc with the potential and candidate states should be created, be functional and lessons learned to be put on practice. But here is important to stress again that not only the government must be involved, as it happens with the burocracies, but all the stakeholders, the farmers and their associations, the civil society, the consumers, the retail, etc.
Continues mass information but also it's very important to keep locally a vital critical mass of knowledge, of institutions and people that are enabled and that can bring forward the discussion and the negotiation process. Axis Leader or ad hoc measures could play an important role on this. CAP is "economy", as it also "democracy", and the single payment scheme will be hardly applicable to Albania, it will for more weaken the entrepreneur spirit of the farmers, their creativity and the linkage to the market. In countries like Albania that have "weak" local governments, especially en regards to develop policies and strategies of sustainable rural development, the future CAP can compensate very well and play a crucial role with its long experience, existing successful schemes and structures.
A simple CAP, that continuously check itself and gives the needed space and instruments to the beneficiaries and the society to check how it is functioning is strongly needed, but also based on the region experience there is a risk that another (local or national) layer more burocratic and parasitic to cripple the intended EU policies.
The further development and the strengthening of the pillar of the Rural Development is essential to Albania. Keeping as much as possible of people rural, in a sustainable way is a condition to Albania. The percentage of people living in rural areas has declined from over 80% to 50%, but the cities can hardly provide new jobs with this rhythm anymore and the emigration is not an practical alternative.
Albania is a small country, confined largely by other small countries. All this countries have different agricultural characteristics, climate, geography and traditions and on the other hand don't have big differences on their economical development. They are all candidates or potential candidates to the EU. The complementarity of the agriculture of the region should be enhanced and countries encouraged to exchange and trade agro and food products for what they have comparative advantages, thus encouraging the specialization and differentiation within and of the whole region. The EU will not have to deal with a desperate multitude of small producers for each country producing everything, but with bigger specialized realities on the regional level.
In the case of Albania given the actual state of the economy, the structure and the balance of import and export of agriculture and food shows that if supported by the CAP there is enough room for agriculture to increase the production, to reach EU standards, to fulfill the requests of the society regarding the nature and environment and to develop a sustainable rural development. But this has to happen soon rather than latter.