The uncertainty that the Russia-Ukraine conflict produced in the world markets forced the Albanian government to add 1.2 billion lek to the national agricultural support scheme for the first time as a subsidy for wheat growers. The Minister of Agriculture, Frida Krifca, stated that the farmers’ access to the scheme that was launched on September 1st is “fantastic”, while the latter complain that the process is dragging on. Even agriculture experts think that the scheme is ‘lame’ due to red tape.

Esmeralda Topi

“Dear farmers: Your access to the wheat support scheme call, in the first 24 hours, has been fantastic, exceeding our expectations! 740 farmers have already applied from north to south, for a production area of 6,550 hectares, with a budget commitment made available on the first day of the call, of 20%.” – wrote on the Facebook social network, the Minister of Agriculture Frida Krifca 24 hours after the opening of the national call for support that the government is giving for wheat.

Screenshot from the Facebook profile of minister Frida Krifca

But the deputy of the Socialist Party Erion Braçe, who had closely followed the application process at Lushnje Directorate of Agriculture, shared a completely different view on social networks.

“DAY 1 FOR “WHEAT”. DIRECTORATE OF AGRICULTURE IN LUSHNJE, LOOK -10.50 AM, EMPTY CORRIDORS, NO FARMERS! From 8.00 until now there are only 20 applications for only 35 HECTARES! THIS IS BAD! COME TO APPLY! TAKE YOUR IDENTITY CARD WITH YOU AND COME TO DECLARE THE AREA YOU WANT TO PLANT” – Braçe wrote in his response, accompanied by a call to the responsible officials to remove the barriers for farmers.

“My second call goes to the EMPTY HEAD OFFICIALS IN TIRANA: REMOVE THE BARRIERS, REMOVE THEM NOW!”

Screenshot from the Facebook profile of MP Erion Braçe

But why so little interest among farmers for the support the government is giving for the cultivation of wheat? Faktoje contacted some of them in Korçë and Fier, two of the regions with the largest areas planted with wheat in Albania.

Xhentil Avdyli from Kolonja together with his family owns 6 hectares of land, of which they want to plant 2 hectares with wheat. Although he already applied on the first day, he has little confidence that he will be one of the beneficiaries of the scheme because of the documentation required in the second phase.

“At a later stage, they will be asking for the land ownership documents and invoices for wheat seeds and chemical fertilizers. The latter will represent an obstacle for every farmer. We have been planting wheat with the seed we use every year for 30 years. Once they ask for the invoices for the seeds and the chemical fertilizers we use, none of us will have them, so no one will be declared a winner. In the meantime, only oligarchs who brings the seeds from outside will win. Farmers will get nothing,” the farmer explains.

Robert Selimi from New Seman, Fier, is also pessimistic. He has applied for 5 hectares, but says previous experience with support schemes have made him sceptical.

“If they don’t remove these bureaucracies, our application will be useless. We had no difficulties with the application itself. I have leased the land and I have all the documents in order, including the lease contract. But they still don’t give you anything. I had 20 hectares when I applied for oil, but they only gave me for up to 10 hectares,” emphasizes Robert for Faktoje.

Evelina Fezollari from Pendavinji, Korça, on the other hand, says that she has applied for 6 hectares of land that she will plant with wheat. But she, like the others, is afraid of the second stage of the application.

“We are also asked for a document to prove we lease land, a document which must be signed by both parties. Last year we had problems, because those who have rented us the land, had applied for oil too, and we didn’t even get half of what we were entitled to. With the application we have made, we should receive 1,800,000, but it remains to be seen how it will go this time,” says Evelina for Faktoje.

Faktoje verified what documentation farmers need to submit in order to be on the list of beneficiaries of the wheat scheme. Referring to the instructions of the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Finance, the second phase of support for wheat cultivation requires the following documents;

  • Ownership certificate, index map and real estate card
  • Land Acquisition Act (AMTP in Albanian)
  • Lease contract or legal document signed between the parties
  • Invoice for the purchase of wheat seed and chemical fertilizers
  • Photocopy or confirmation of the bank document as with the number of the farmer’s active bank account

Instruction no. 14 date (01.08.2022) on the criteria, procedures, and method of administration of the program fund for agriculture and rural development.

For the chairman of the Farmers’ Association, Eduard Sharka, these are exactly the criteria that represen obstacles for the farmers.

“The problem with the scheme is the over one hectare criterion and the bureaucracy of the documents related to land ownership. Lushnje Municipality charged 4,000 Lek for just one sketch, but the Municipality Council overturned it and now sketches will be provided for free, but what about other municipalities? 70% of the land owners are in emigration, how will you get their confirmation for use of their land?!”- emphasizes Sharka for Faktoje.

Ervin Resuli, an expert in agricultural issues, says that the wheat scheme is similar to that of oil, with the only difference being that the part of the documents for wheat cultivation has been postponed to the second stage, while for oil they were needed in the initial stage of the application.

“Maybe they wanted to make the application easier and have as many farmers as possible in the first phase. The problems will start when completing the documentation. And the other and most important problem is that there is no money. It encourages farmers, but does not support them, so they are winners but not beneficiaries. You meet all the criteria, but you don’t have enough funds and you don’t benefit.” – says Resuli, citing Kosovo as an example, which has 474 euros per hectare in support for wheat this year.

According to official data, Albania and Montenegro provide almost the same value as support for wheat cultivation, while leaving behind North Macedonia and Serbia. In the region, Kosovo provides the highest support for wheat.

Value of wheat subsidy per area

KOSOVO 474 EURO/HA
Albania  255 EURO/HA
Montenegro  250 EURO/HA
North Macedonia  200 EURO/HA
Serbia    68 EURO/HA

Albania cultivates about 54 thousand hectares of wheat. Referring to official data, Fier is the district with the largest area of wheat with about 27%. Then comes Korça with about 22% and the third district is Elbasan with about 16%.

The average cost of wheat production is calculated at 212 thousand ALL per hectare. According to data from the Institute of Statistics, Albanian farmers produce an average of 233,000 tons of wheat per year, but this amount is insufficient to cover consumer demand, since at the same time imports resulted in 221,000 tons of wheat last year, at a value of about 7 billion ALL.

Based on the verification carried out and the information gathered, we decided to categorize the statement of the Minister of Agriculture as half true.