Fresh Tomatoes: Ideas to Build a Productive Ecosystem

Abstract:

During the last years production of fresh vegetables in Albania had an important growth due to the increase in the number of Ha using Greenhouses technologies. Many of the new investments came from former expats who spent a few years working abroad and came back -in some cases because of the crisis in Greece - with money and some experience in the field. However, although exports showed an important growth (in tomatoes, for example exports doubled from 2013 to 2011!), the sector has not been able to definitely take off and be a relevant player in the international market. The problem is not only that the share of Albania in the European trade is almost negligible but also that diversification didn't happen, quality has not improved and as a consequence the prices that Albanian producers get is very low - the lowest in Europe for some products like tomatoes. In this context, Albania has been focusing on the regional markets (probably not consciously but as a consequence of not having established a commercial relation with higher-end markets and not having a proper quality produce to offer), has been excluded from the best markets and has not improved the productive methods, practices, etc. Given this situation the building of new capacity was not necessarily a success: local markets started to be oversupplied and production losses are very high as a consequence.

In this report we analyzed the value chain of the fresh vegetables sector, focusing on the production of tomatoes. We detail the problems of the whole value chain (from the production to the marketing), pointing out the "missing links" that are preventing Albania to become a major tomato exporter in the European market. We find that there is a huge potential for the country - in terms of the natural conditions and also in terms of competitiveness -, but it is very difficult to be reached without making a re-organization of the sector to make it more integrated and give the proper incentives to solve simultaneously all the problems.

We found that in order to improve the general productivity of the sector it is not necessary to make huge capital disbursements. Although some of the constraints are clearly money-related, most of them are organization-related.

What the propose in this report is a method to re-organize the sector in a way that makes it easier for the economic agents to vertically and horizontally integrate and transform the sector into a "factory", where every participant has its defined role and work is divided with specific roles. The role of the Government is twofold: first, to facilitate the organization of this model, find the actors that can lead the change and provide them the incentives to coordinate. Second, to provide all the public goods that are now missing or incomplete (not only in terms of infrastructure but also in terms of marketing, negotiations, etc). In the next sections we explain with detail the constraints and missing links we found throughout the value chain of tomatoes and propose a new model to solve them. We show that with little organizational changes, Albania could increase its tomato exports by four times in a few years.