Three brand new processing plants are being built thanks to the assistance provided by the Agricultural and Rural Development Agency (ARDA) and the European Union-funded IPARD Programme. The three plants will significantly boost the processing capacities and will give a fresh impetus to the domestic market, as well as to the exports and the food quality. Prime Minister Edi Rama, accompanied by the ARDA Director Frida Krifca, toured the three construction sites of the facilities, which will soon set a model of success in the Albanian agriculture and agro-processing industry.
The first one is a fruit processing plant, which aims not only to expand its market, but also offer innovation in fruit processing. “The new plant will employ a fruit infusion technological process that is currently inexistent in Albania. This is a consolidated business that runs an existing factory, yet it was unable to export refreshing infused fruits, as it failed to obtain a due certificate in line with the European standards. This will be now possible thanks to the new investment,” ARDA Director said.
The company currently exports processed products to Kosovo, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands. “Most importantly, the Albanian agriculture sector is gaining access to the European market,” the company manager said.
“This is one of the most complex projects currently being implemented, while 13 more fruits and vegetable processing projects of this size are also underway through support under the Measure 3 of the IPARD Programme. The company has gained a 50% grant. What we have already accomplished in the efforts to ease and speed up such investment projects is the fact that we have succeeded in developing an upfront payment process to support investments also thanks to the reliability and trust we have built with the EU through bank guarantee contracts. The 50% upfront payment has provided sufficient liquidity. We are the only country in the region to enable such prepayment procedure and this has been the case with the majority of beneficiaries. This has been the only way to ensure timely allocation of the required funding to support investment projects,” Krifca said.
Another beneficiary under the IPARD Programme is AMG Food, which operates in meat processing and wholesale of meat products. “This is one of the most important ARDA projects on meat and meat products processing. The Agency has earmarked a grant of around four million euros to support this sector through this programme, while the investment value is estimated at around 10 million euros. This investment project aims at improving safety and quality of meat products. A proper intervention was needed in this sector to ultimately put an end to conventional slaughtering methods and regulate a very important link in the food chain and enhance food safety and consumer protection system. Such modern facilities can ensure the food safety standards, produce meat for export to European markets and supply top-quality meat shops in the country,” ARDA Director Krifca said.
AMG Food is seeking to gain access to the European market thanks to the enhanced processing capacities, investment in state-of-the-art equipment and technology and the process standardization. “Though many problems definitely remain, we have already shifted from the conventional animal slaughtering methods to modern abattoirs that meet highest quality and safety standards. When a series of slaughterhouses decide to join a long chain of similar businesses and cooperate with such companies and facilities like this and when such facilities, also due to the growing market demand the work in the slaughterhouses increases, the interest of livestock farmers is best channelled to address to the abattoirs, thus leading to a price change drive too, while such enterprises move to a whole new level. The next phase will kick off when you will drive the growth of livestock production, becoming promoters of a whole chain working with you, fully developing the sector and increasing its gains. I think we can also help you by opening up and providing you access to the Middle East market, which represents a huge volume of potential exports,” PM Rama said.
Processing dried vegetables and fruits is another sector attracting more investments and attention of the entrepreneurs. The company Palma, not only is it an existing company seeking to further expand, but most importantly it is a 100% Albanian enterprise. “We collect dried fruits from local farmers for over 20 years now. We cooperate with around 100 farmers currently and once this investment completes we expect this number to significantly grow to over 250 in the next three years. In the meantime, we are seeking to export our products and increase number of employees to over 100, mainly in this new factory, in the next three years,” the company administrator said.
Concluding his visit to the three pioneering facilities in the country, Prime Minister Rama said “these are the next generation plants as they build the premises for champions of local production and processing and we must continue to support them and we will do so. “Plus, it is very important in general, beyond agriculture, that examples are set through these investments to demonstrate that those who really want, those who have a vision and a strong will, those who have an ambition do not need to emigrate, because they can earn a lot more here in their homeland.”