Albania's communist history has shaped the current agricultural context. During the Communist period, agricultural land was not privately owned, and farmers were encouraged to form cooperatives. Although this system has taken root in many countries, in Albania it has met with resistance, with farmers preferring to work alone on their farms. This resistance has led to modest crops and small quantities of produce, making it difficult to access international, national or even local markets.
In a current context where the capital's food supply is structured around a wholesale market, which has a virtual monopoly and through which a large proportion of the food consumed in the capital passes, the municipality of Tirana is planning to create an Agro-Hub, a platform whose aim is to create collaboration between operators by proposing that farmers combine forces to create new opportunities, based on a system that is an alternative to the cooperative model of the Communist era.
With the aim of overcoming the near-exclusivity of the wholesale market in the capital, the municipality of Tirana wants to develop new logistics points for the collection and sale of food, giving priority to agricultural production in its rural areas (production of fruit and vegetables, cereals and pulses, meat and dairy products). The project was initiated by Tirana's Department for Rural Economic Development, and is managed by the Tirana Agrikulture S.R.L. company, which is entirely owned by the municipality. The concept of the AgroHub is to go beyond the private market, which is not very accessible to small producers because it is highly taxed, and to create a public market so that farmers can come together and increase the quantities grown by pooling their produce to create export opportunities.
The Hub will function as an agency for rural and agricultural development, providing advisory services for small farmers, helping them to put together dossiers and submit applications to access potential government funding. For the smallest farmers, the AgroHub will offer administrative and internal management support, provide advice and formulate business plans to enable those who wish to do so to launch sustainable projects, such as agro-tourism.
Another function of the Hub will be to link up farmers who wish to do so with supermarkets, guaranteeing fairer prices than the existing contracts. Farmers will be able to choose who to sell their produce to, so there will be no obligation to sell to a specific intermediary.
The project will be an opportunity to develop new links between rural and urban areas by bringing consumers and producers closer together. The aim would be to support existing traditional channels (public fruit and vegetable markets, informal mobile markets, retail grocery shops with their own supply network, AMAPs) while providing solutions at a more global level, facilitating the development of local food governance.
The function of the Agro-Hub will therefore be to structure a new public market and provide a legal structure to strengthen collaboration between players who are not currently linked in the Tirana region, and thus to enable new logistical points for collecting and selling food to small producers. Its aim is to address the major issues of rural development, small-scale agricultural production, territorial cohesion, product quality and the link between consumers and producers.
With the aim of opening the hub in 2023, the long-term objectives of the project are to gain an overview of producers of all sizes in the region, better identify and understand their needs, build the capacity of local producers and give them access to new markets, pool production, limit waste at all stages and encourage composting of organic waste. The Tirana Hub represents a new opportunity for farmers, enabling an exchange of knowledge and interests, and a pooling of capacities, as well as the emergence of a new agricultural and food policy in the region.
The Agro-Hub will also archive data on the country's farmers in a "Digital farmer registry". There is already a register of rural Albania, but the data has been archived manually. The new digital tool will provide a better overview of the initiatives in place, as well as existing policies and support schemes.
This initiative was written by KUGEL Mathis, in civic service at Let's Food in June 2023.
Entretiens menés par Let’s Food
Last modification : 05 Jun 2023.
Municipality of Tirana
The AgroHub is an agency for rural and agricultural development, providing advisory services for small farmers and assistance and support in bringing agricultural players together. It also functions as a public market serving the needs of the region's producers.