Structure and Marketing of Agricultural Output

Structure and Marketing of Agricultural Output

Before the 1990s, Albania's main food crops were wheat, corn, fruits, and vegetables (see Table 7, Appendix). However, planners were devoting increasing attention to tobacco, olives, and oranges. Between 1989 and 1991, the country's crop structure underwent a radical transformation. The new private farmers took responsibility for transporting and selling their output and began basing their production and marketing decisions on freemarket conditions. Low state procurement prices, a shortage of livestock feed, the breakdown of the transportation system, and a lack of demand from idled processing plants led to steep declines in the hectarage sown with wheat and such industrial crops as tobacco, sugar beets, sunflowers, and cotton. Disputes arising out of the government's land-privatization program, shortages of funds for seeds and agricultural machinery, and the hasty privatization of the enterprises that provided farmers with machinery and fertilizers also had an effect. In the first third of 1991, milk production was down 50 percent compared to the corresponding period in 1990; bread-grain production was down 67 percent; and areas sown with cotton and tobacco had decreased by 80 percent and 50 percent, respectively.

The farmers' choice of which crops to plant was motivated primarily by the need to feed their families and only secondarily by the cash market. In mid-1991, 10 to 15 percent of Albania's cultivable land lay fallow mainly because the state enterprises were not giving small farmers seed, fertilizers, and other necessary inputs. Transportation breakdowns and other problems continued to force farmers away from crops requiring processing, leaving wheat, sugar, and vegetable oils in short supply. Production on newly privatized plots grew, however, despite input shortages. Corn production increased, and meat, egg, and vegetable output seemed to be on the rise. Western economists expected agricultural production to begin recovering in 1992 as the private sector began solving transportation problems and reorganizing production in response to demand. Despite these grounds for optimism, domestic production in 1992 was projected to meet only about 88 percent of the country's need for meat, 48 percent for wheat, 30 percent for sugar, and 5 percent for vegetable oils. The production shortfalls would force donor countries to commit additional food aid to avert serious hunger.

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