Agriculture constitutes a priority field with innovative potential for the economy, identified within the framework of the Strategy for Smart Specialization (S3) based on a detailed analysis of the capacities, resources, as well as the competitive advantages that Albania possesses. The development of S3 is part of Albania's obligations in the context of the negotiation process for EU accession, specifically in Chapter 20, "Enterprises and Industrial Policies," and Chapter 25, "Science and Research." It is also part of the Western Balkans 2021-2024 Action Plan within the Berlin Process and part of the EU agenda for innovation in the Western Balkans 2021-2027.
In this context, the National S3 Team, under the special care of Deputy Prime Minister Mrs. Belinda Balluku, with the support of the Ministry of Tourism and Environment and the Union of Albanian Producers, organized a roundtable for the agriculture sector, focusing on the development and prioritization of sectors such as agriculture, livestock, and agri-processing, following the methodology of the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission (JRC). The meeting was held on May 9, 2023, at the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.
The meeting began with opening remarks from Mrs. Linda Pustina, Chair of the National S3 Team, Advisor to the Deputy Prime Minister, emphasizing the importance of this process, followed by welcoming remarks from Mr. Irfan Tarelli, Director-General of Agricultural Policies and Programs, Food Safety, and Rural Development. Panelists and discussion facilitators included Mr. Agim Rrapaj, Chairman of the Albanian Agribusiness Council, and Assoc. Prof. Dr. Fatmir Guri, Responsible for the Department of Economics and Rural Development Policies.
There was a wide participation with 50 representatives from all sectors (government, academia, business, civil society). Participants contributed by first discussing the challenges and needs facing the sector and then providing their thoughts on possible solutions or policies for intelligent development. Considering the quality of the land, natural resources, and climate of the country, participants expressed that innovation and digitization of processes in sectors such as agriculture, livestock, and agri-processing would be highly productive and an opportunity that should be utilized for production growth.
Among the topics discussed by the participants were:
- The significant potential for innovation within the sector, with a focus on Agricultural Technology Transfer Centers (ATTCs), which serve as a good basis for preparing technological packages for agricultural crops and the development of various expertise to assist farmers if their potential is maximized.
- Human capital, in terms of numbers and expertise, and brain drain, as well as the importance of a developed academy.
- Funding opportunities.
- Collaboration among the four sectors to promote smart specialization.
- The creation of an integrated value chain for agricultural products.
The discussions held in this meeting will serve as a basis for the national workshop in the field of agriculture.