`Olive Oil an Election Issue in Albania - Olive Oil Times

Olive Oil an Election Issue in Albania

By Michael Angelopoulos
May. 28, 2013 10:12 UTC

Prime Minister Sali Berisha

The polit­i­cal cam­paign period began Thursday in the south­west­ern coun­try of the Balkan Peninsula, Albania.

Two main can­di­dates will com­pete to be elected Prime Minister on June 23. Edi Rama, leader of the Socialist Party, is chal­leng­ing Sali Berisha, the cur­rent Prime Minister of the coun­try.

Among the main issues of the polit­i­cal con­tro­versy, along with the prospect of join­ing the E.U. and the wages pol­icy of the new gov­ern­ment, emerges the ques­tion of whether or not Albania should invest heav­ily in farm­ing, and par­tic­u­larly in the olive oil indus­try.

Agriculture accounts for only 19 per­cent of Albania’s GDP, while more than 50 per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion still lives in rural areas. The coun­try, doused by the Ionian Sea in Mediterranean Basin, is an ideal loca­tion for pro­duc­ing high-qual­ity olive oil.

The land, although in some regions moun­tain­ous and at high alti­tudes, pro­vides the slope-porous ter­rain that olive trees love. The west­ern breeze from the sea keeps the tem­per­a­ture mod­er­ate while the sum­mery light pro­vides the energy needed for the syn­the­sis of the fruit.

As Albania lacks expe­ri­ence in inter­na­tional mar­kets though, its olive oil is hardly known abroad. Moreover, olive groves have often gone neglected, as young Albanians have sought work in neigh­bor­ing coun­tries such as Italy and Greece.

According to a 2009 study from USAID, the typ­i­cal Albanian oil pro­ducer is male, aged 52, with a fam­ily of 5. He owns 1.47 hectares of land, of which 0.64 hectares are planted to olive trees, pro­duc­ing 1.01 met­ric tons of olives per year.

The study found a lack of effi­ciency in olive oil pro­duc­tion caused by the absence of invest­ment in new tech­nol­ogy and the non-exis­tence of high-yield inten­sive farm­ing. However, it stated that olives con­sti­tute a major ele­ment of Albanian cul­ture.”

Traveling within agri­cul­tural areas to meet with farm­ers on the occa­sion of the elec­tions, President Sali Berisha urged his com­pa­tri­ots to plant olive trees as the safest legacy to leave to future gen­er­a­tions. We planted 1,540 hectares of olive groves,” he said, prais­ing his pre­vi­ous term in office.

Indeed, dur­ing the last 10 years, it is esti­mated that 2 mil­lion new olive trees were planted. Still, olive oil pro­duc­tion is less than 12,000 tons in good har­vest years, com­ing mostly from the areas of Fier, Vlora, and between Elbasani and Tirana, although accu­rate data do not exist.

Nearly all of the pro­duc­tion of olives is in Berat, and more than 90 per­cent belongs to the olive vari­ety Kokerrmadh.

Berisha has stated that he wants to see invest­ments in olives and olive oil rise by plant­ing up to 50 mil­lion new trees. He crit­i­cized his oppo­nent Rama for vis­it­ing farm­ers stuck with unsold olive stock and using them as exam­ples to counter-attack argu­ments on invest­ing in the olive oil indus­try.


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