Good news for Albanian farmers and agribusinesses that seek financing for their investments. The Albanian government has formally submitted its application to the European Commission to obtain Operating Structure accreditation for managing the fund worth 71 million euros under IPARD 2014-2020 program.

Through the support of IPA 2008, an Operating Structure has been created and assisted to comply with the accreditation requirements for the managing of funds. The accreditation documents has been delivered and accepted by Directorate-General for Agriculture and Rural Development DG AGRI. DG AGRI auditors are expected to be in Tirana during November to evaluate the situation and requirements. If all the requirement has been fulfilled, the auditors give access to EU funds.

About the fund and when it will be allocated

The agreement was signed in 2015 in Brussels by Minister of Agriculture Mr. Edmond Panariti and Director General of Agriculture and Rural Development of the European Commission (DG AGRI), Mr. Jersey Plewa. This is the largest grant allocated by the European Union for assisting and supporting farmers and businesses in rural areas in Albania as Mr Panariti declared after the meeting.

According to the agreement documents provided by Agroweb, the total amount allocated the first year will be Euro 13 million as the value will increase by 2019-2020 with a total of euro 16 million per year. Under the program, farmers, agricultural entrepreneurs and food processing plants could benefit from a grant of between 10,000 euro and 2 million euro.

Through the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance in Rural Development (IPARD), the government plans to support 2,055 investment projects and thus create 800 jobs, the Ministry of finance said in a statement. The program is expected to be kicked off in 2017.

The total financing injection on Albanian agriculture

The lion’s share will be received by farmers for Investments in Agricultural Holdings followed by Investments in Processing and Marketing of Agricultural and fishery, Investments in Farms diversification and Technical Assistance.

The IPARD Grant Scheme is co-funded by the EU 75% (Euro 71 Million) and the Government of Albania 25% (Euro 23 million) for a total financial support of Euro 94 Million during 2016-2020. As the EU funds cover 50% to 70% of the investments value, the total financing injection on Albanian agricultural is expected to be almost Euro 180 million.

The program also aims to support investments in aquaculture, natural and rural tourism and renewable energy production. If approved, the implementation of the program will start in 2017, when all farmers and companies, which meet the requirements, will be invited to apply for funding.

EU – Use the funds wisely

“The European Commission has a very strict procedure which allows it to get the money back if Member States do not properly manage and control their spending. The same principles of rigorous and solid spending of EU funds apply to the Candidate countries, as future members of our EU family”, stressed the EU Ambassador, Romana Vlahutin at the high level workshop held earlyer in Tirana on Indirect Management of EU Funds-Prevention and Detection of Irregularities and Fraud in IPARD funds.

“This is a huge investment, which if used well and wisely should lead to a substantial change in the structure of the agricultural economy and the quality of food in Albania. We encourage the Albanian farmers and agribusinesses to be aware and proactive and take full advantage of this great opportunity”, noted the EU Ambassador, Romana Vlahutin on her speech. During the ‘Support of the Future of Albanian agriculture’, USAID and CBS event held this year in Tirana, the Head of the Political, Economic and Information Section of the EU Delegation to Albania, Mr Jan Rudolph said that the European Union views agriculture as a crucial sector for the development of Albania. “We have been supporting Albanian agriculture since the early 1990s and continue that under the IPARD financing framework. For the next four years, the European Union has allocated Euro 72 Million for the Albanian agriculture financing and these are real investments not only for agriculture, but also Albania towards its EU integration”, said Jan Rudolph.

The IPAs Indicative Strategy paper 2014-2020, reports that, Agricultural funding remains limited, compared to the needs of the sector and to other countries in the region. Furthermore, national support measures provide subsidies for actual production rather than promoting competitiveness and facilitating access to credit. The administrative capacity of the country remains low. Albania will need to expand the administrative capacity in order to be able to approximate its legislation and policy instruments to the EU./