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Opinion / Editorial

Protect Albanian exports!

Protect Albanian exports!

Prior to the pandemic, Albania's medicinal and aromatic plant industry employed 90,000 people per season. In terms of employment, it surpassed the most productive sector we have, the clothing and footwear industry (tailor). The year 2021 closed with a very good balance of this industry. Its exports reached $ 60 million, or 23 percent more than in 2020. But in early January this year, a truck transporting medicinal plants to European Union countries, passing through Montenegro, was caught with drugs inside the consignment and since then, there are hundreds of trucks of this industry that are blocked, forced to unload the entire consignment, in absurd controls, by the Montenegrin customs in Han i Hotit. Such a situation must end as soon as possible and for this our top leaders in the Ministry of Agriculture and in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Europe must be engaged, as the implementation of the contracts of this industry is at stake. Every day and hour of delay calls into question not only its exports, but also the jobs of tens of thousands of citizens from the most mountainous and impoverished areas of the country. It is enough for the customs point of Hani i Hotit to be equipped with a customs scanner and physical controls of the goods, blocking the trucks for hours and even days, as well as causing damage to the cargo, due to its displacement, would cease. A quick and small investment in financial value was enough to avoid the losses of Albanian exporting companies. This industry, it is so focused on exports and employs over 60 thousand people in seasonal periods, has benefited little or not at all from about 90 million euros provided by IPARD 2 program funds and budget funds, used in rural development projects. If the allowable turnover threshold for EU grants is to be increased, the industry could benefit from the opening of the IPARD III program call in 2022. Medicinal and aromatic plants are an asset that is little used by us as a State. Not that their processing industry and our entrepreneurs in the sector do not want to do that, but do not have the financial means for the necessary investments. Although today only 20 percent of the aromatic and medicinal plants collected are processed and 80 percent of them are exported raw, exports reach $ 60 million a year. And to think that if we processed 40 percent of the medicinal and aromatic plants, we would reach, at the added value in processing, a level of $ 130-140 million exports in one year within the next 2-3 years! But this figure can not be achieved, if the industry is left at the mercy of physical checks by the customs authorities of neighboring countries. This industry, which has tremendous development potential, is now in an extremely challenging situation. The pandemic has increased the demand for aromatic plants and especially medicinal ones, as some of the teas prepared from them also help in the cure of Covid-19. With their investments of almost 30 years, Albanian entrepreneurs in the sector manage to process only 20 percent of the collected plants. The pandemic did not stop the export of medicinal plants. Despite the crisis from COVID-19, exports increased. The main export destination is the United States, with a forced stop in Germany, where most 80 percent of raw plants are processed, to be sold 3-4 times more expensive in the US market. About 32 percent of medicinal and aromatic plant products were fully exported to Germany and about 10 percent to Austria and Spain during 2021. The market is thirsty for much more. "If we had the opportunity to invest in our processing capacities", says Filip Gjoka, president of the Association of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants Industry of Albania, where most 80 percent of raw plants are processed, to be sold 3-4 times more expensive in the US market. About 32 percent of medicinal and aromatic plant products were fully exported to Germany and about 10 percent to Austria and Spain during 2021. The market is thirsty for much more. "If we had the opportunity to invest in our processing capacities", says Filip Gjoka, president of the Association of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants Industry of Albania, where most 80 percent of raw plants are processed, to be sold 3-4 times more expensive in the US market. About 32 percent of medicinal and aromatic plant products were fully exported to Germany and about 10 percent to Austria and Spain during 2021. The market is thirsty for much more. "If we had the opportunity to invest in our processing capacities", says Filip Gjoka, president of the Association of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants Industry of Albania,

 “do t’i kishim rritur me herë eksportet tona brenda një periudhe shumë të shkurtër”. Kjo mundësi është reale dhe duhet të kapet nga qeveria jonë. Ministrja e Bujqësisë ka qenë deri pak muaj më parë drejtuese e Agjencisë së Zhvillimit Bujqësor dhe Rural(AZHBR), nga kanë kaluar të gjitha projektet e IPARD. Ajo i njeh më së miri shanset që ka kjo industri. Dhe për të mundësuar shtim me mbi 70 milionë euro eksporte të pastra të bimëve të përpunuara mjekësore dhe industriale, mjafton të bëhen dy gjëra shumë të qarta dhe të thjeshta: të ndalohet bllokimi dhe vonesa skandaloze e kamionëve të industrisë në doganën malazeze të Hanit të Hotit dhe të rritet nga 1.5 milionë euro në 12 milionë euro pragu i xhiros për të përfituar grante nga IPARD III. Po u realizuan këto dy masa, kompanitë e sektorit do të arrijnë të nxjerrin produktin përfundimtar, çajin e këtyre bimëve në bustina “Made in Albania”, për të synuar me këtë produkt tregjet evropiane dhe të SHBA-ve.