Livestock Imports Reflect Worsening Conditions in Albanian Animal Husbandry Sector

 The latest data from the first quarter of 2024 indicates a concerning trend in Albania's livestock sector. Importation of live animals has surged by 62%, a stark increase compared to the previous year's 22% annual change during the same period.

Chart of the import of live animals in Albania according to the three months 2022-2024, in kilograms, source: Monitor
Chart of the import of live animals in Albania according to the three months 2022-2024, in kilograms, source: Monitor 
Approximately 30% of these imports originate from Greece, primarily for meat production purposes within Albania. Greece serves as a major supplier of pigs and young cattle for meat consumption, while livestock for breeding, typically sourced from the Netherlands and Denmark, remain comparatively low in quantity and almost negligible in value compared to meat imports.

Following Greece, the primary suppliers of live animals for meat production include Hungary, Romania, Kosovo, Slovakia, and North Macedonia. These countries predominantly export piglets and young cattle for meat processing.

The imports of live animals for meat have been steadily increasing year after year, with this year's trend showing an even stronger inclination. On one hand, reduced local livestock breeding, and on the other hand, tourism, have bolstered the demand for meat.

Albanian cuisine is heavily reliant on meat, consequently, the influx of tourists has boosted meat consumption in restaurants. However, alongside increased consumption, meat prices have risen significantly. In March, overall price levels saw a 2.3% yearly increase, with meat prices soaring by 3.7%.

Traditionally, Albania boasted a rich heritage in natural livestock breeding. However, with declining rural populations, youth migration from rural areas, and a lack of subsidies, this tradition is fading away.

Between 2021 and 2022, the number of livestock owners witnessed a decline of approximately 20%. Accurate data on livestock owners, similar to other agricultural sectors, is lacking. The Statistical Institute postponed the Agriculture Census to 2024, originally slated for 2022.

Moreover, livestock farming faces internal competition within the agricultural sector. In rural areas, livestock breeders compete with greenhouse farming. For one hectare of greenhouse, the average annual income amounts to €40,000, while for one cow, an entire hectare is required, yielding only €1,000 annually, as analyzed by a livestock farm owner in Fier.

The farmer explained that farmers have realized that greenhouses allow for 2-3 harvests per year, thus mitigating losses in one crop with gains in another. In recent years, regions with widespread greenhouse cultivation have witnessed a drastic decline in livestock numbers.

INSTAT data reveals that, in 2022, the sharpest annual declines in livestock, primarily dairy and beef producers, were observed in Belsh by 56%, Mallakastër 55%, Vorë 52%, Lushnjë 46%, and Shijak 45%, areas with intensive greenhouse development.

In the north, livestock breeders are selling cows and acquiring goats. For instance, in the Tropojë region, goat herds have declined by 35% in the past five years, while the number of bee goats is rapidly increasing. Last year, Tropojë municipality counted 19,569 bee goats, marking a 22% increase from 2021 and a staggering 166% increase from 2018.
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