Increasing Exports of Albania's Cultivated Fish

By Alejandra Jimenez

Albania is rich in water resources and both inland and marine aquaculture have potential for growth and development. In the past two decades European and Mediterranean countries have seen their freshwater aquaculture decrease while marine aquaculture, especially of European Seabass and Gilthead Seabream, has increased. In 2000, Albanian aquaculture producers started to turn their attention to seabass and seabream production and their cultivation in cages in the Ionian Sea increased dramatically. Albanian production, however, represents only 0.38% of European marine aquaculture of seabass and seabream and its productivity rate is below that of neighboring countries. If the country were to operate its current facilities at the average cultivation rates of Greece, production would increase threefold.  If the country were to operate currently available waters at a suggested rate of 15kg/m3, its aquaculture production could increase to 40 times the current size.

Three main barriers stand in the way of achieving this goal:

  1. High costs of production caused by the need to import cages, fingerlings, and feed; all of which are basic inputs for production that the country cannot currently produce for lack of technology and investment
  2. Lack of formality in the marketing and trade of fish products
  3. Lack of clarity in the regulatory framework, which is an issue common to aquaculture in Mediterranean countries, where legislation guiding the activity is usually contradictory.

In Albania’s case the main regulatory piece for the industry, the Law on Aquaculture, is being drafted. Passing this law should bring some clarity to aquaculture businesses.

Reducing the costs of production requires lowering taxes and requirements for fingerling and feed imports, in the short run, and initiating national production of these two inputs in the long run. Government can incentivize research and development in aquaculture to increase technical capacity for fingerling and feed production and it can also provide better financing choices for the acquisition of cages for aquaculture farms. The marketing of fish products requires the establishment of a formal fish market that would be close to the main production ports and aquaculture sites and that would comply with all the standards to ensure the quality of the final product. Consumers are very sensitive to the quality of the fish they buy and complying with quality standards and ensuring food safety conditions should be a priority to increase consumption and guarantee the highest possible price.

As regulation for the aquaculture sector is clarified and drafted, the Albanian government is looking to define Allowable Zones for Aquaculture (AZA) with all interested actors. It would be ideal that these AZA secure property rights for a period of minimum 10 years allowing companies to recuperate their investments. Other factors that could be included in the regulation to incentivize the aquaculture industry are the conditions for sustainable operation and the mechanisms for the acquisition and enforcement of licenses and for inspections to ensure product quality. Definition on the government part of the minimal requirements for a legal operation in the business should help the private sector to achieve more security and effectiveness in production. The private sector, on the other hand, can also create better conditions for the development of the industry by initiating producer organizations that would promote the interests of aquaculture producers.

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See also: Albania, Interns