Mr. Ruzhdi Koni, owner of AgroKoni Trading Company, sends off his first shipment of watermelons to a distributor in Lithuania. With USAID support, Albanian farmers and traders like Mr. Koni, are able to find lucrative international markets.
Albania is a country that produces a wealth of high-quality agricultural products and because of its geography and climate it can enter produce markets in the region and in the European Union earlier in a given year for premium prices. But that potential has not been fully met because Albania’s agriculture sector does not have adequate technological and business sophistication to be competitive.
Albanian farms are usually small, family-run operations, many of which cannot meet large purchase orders nor send their products to distant markets. Helping Albanian farmers overcome these difficulties would have an impact on reducing poverty and supporting economic development in rural areas where the poverty levels are much higher than the national average.
With USAID support, Albanian farmers, processors and traders are gaining the knowledge and skills they need to better reach regional and even international markets. Last week, USAID helped Agro-Koni, an Albanian producer of improved seedlings and consolidator, export 10 containers of early-season watermelons to Lithuania, valued at over US$50,000. The sale marks a milestone in a year-long process, where USAID’s assistance enabled Mr. Ruzhdi Koni, owner of AgroKoni, to navigate the complex process of establishing trade links with a regional buyer. Koni is preparing for two additional shipments in the coming weeks that would provide his company more than $100,000 in sales.
USAID’s five-year, Albanian Agriculture Competitiveness program is working with farmers, processors, suppliers and traders to build an integrated value-chain network that will increase the competitiveness of Albanian agriculture. Since it began in 2007, the project has had increased domestic and export sales by over 65% for assisted clients.
USAID has also published the first Albania’s Buyer Guide, a user-friendly directory with contacts for companies interested in purchasing Albanian products.