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Ekonomia

"Subsidies and infrastructure missing", farmers: Climate change is affecting citrus production

"Subsidies and infrastructure missing", farmers: Climate change is

Vlora County in Albania produces about 65% of Albanian citrus fruits. Climatic conditions have influenced this year that production is late, while farmers are finding it difficult to sell mandarins. The non-support of farmers from the large agricultural state is affecting their interest in planting new areas.

The fields and gentle hills of Vrina, Mursia and Konispoli in the southernmost tip of Albania are green with citrus fields where the harvest of this year's production has begun.

The cultivation of oranges and tangerines has increased year after year, turning Vlora County into the largest producer of citrus fruits in Albania with about 65% of the planted areas.

In Mursi, the village that started the history of cultivation a few years ago and is now called the land of citrus fruits, Athina Pando, administrator of the unit, says that this year production has come late due to climatic conditions.

"The citrus season this year, due to the climatic conditions, came to us more than 20 days late. Compared to previous years, at this time, the part cultivated in the mountain area had passed over half of the production for sale, while this year it has not started yet. Over 70% of the population here deals with citrus fruits by growing tangerines and oranges."

Even Ariol Shero, administrator of the company Agro Konispoli, says that this year has been a difficult year due to the impact of the climate.

This is a very difficult year due to the drought that occurred in September and October and the very warm weather which does not coincide with the tangerine season. It has left the seeds far behind in ripening and now we are waiting to start the season.

Many farmers sell produce directly from the field to traders, and despite the increase in collection capacity, storage and marketing has not been fully resolved, says Ms Pando.

Marketing and warehousing of production is one of the main problems so that these sales of production are not made spontaneously, as we say in the market, from the field directly to the trader".

While Arioli, whose company was established 6 years ago, says that this year there is demand, but they are not yet ready because the production has not reached the ripening cycle.

"100% of the production that I have and what I also collect from farmers is only for export. Mainly in the countries of the European Union and recently we signed a contract with Lidl market and we are supplying them as well. We cannot currently meet the market's demand because the market wants them whole, red, and currently the tangerine has not reached the peak stage of its ripening."

The administrator of the Murcia unit ranks the problem of the price of the product, which competes with neighboring Greece, where farmers are reimbursed and reduce the price of mandarins, making it difficult for Albanian mandarins to penetrate the market.

The main reason for the reduction in the price of our product is our neighbor, Greece. They reduce the price because they are subsidized, while in our country, the subsidization of the farmer is zero.

While the farmers of this area started the cultivation of citrus fruits with great optimism, increasing the planted areas year after year, the optimism has now started to fade. Administrator Pando says that they are not compensated for the damage caused by nature and are not supported with subsidies.

"They came very excited, many young people, many families from abroad. But seeing that there was no support from the state, interest has declined. We suffer atmospheric damage, for example, 40 farmers were damaged by hail last year and no measures were taken to compensate them. What do they do, they leave the activity and flee to emigration."

While Arioli is even more critical when he talks about the lack of support for farmers who cultivate citrus fruits

"The only things that are not missing in this area are the hard workers and the challenges we have with the Albanian state. In the area of ??Konispoli, almost everything that is at the service of the farmer is missing. Subventions are missing, electricity is missing, drainage channels are missing, field roads are missing, many things are missing for us."

According to official statistics, the production of citrus fruits last year in Albania was about 55 thousand tons, where the highest level of production was recorded in the Vlora District with 35,800 tons.

While in 2021, over 50 thousand tons of citrus fruits were produced.

According to the European Institute of Statistics, Albania continues to be one of the seven largest citrus producers in Europe./ VOA