Albania is keen to develop its agricultural sector having low milk production yields per cow and only about half of the milk produced in the country is formally processed. To support this development, Tetra Pak and Tetra Laval Food for Development have launched a three-year technical assistance project with dairy processors Agroal & Global Services, Sh.p.k. (AGS) and Lufra, Sh.p.k. (Lufra) to establish the first Dairy Hubs in Albania. Since loose milk is still being consumed in the market, the project aims to improve milk quality and food safety by linking farmers to a formal dairy value chain. After 16 months, the supply of milk to Lufra has increased by almost 42 per cent, from 60,000 to 85,000 litres per day. Smallholder farmer monthly income has also increased by 92 per cent, from US$248.4 to US$477.9 per farm.
According to the International Farm Comparison Network (IFCN), milk in Albania is mainly produced by smallholder farmers and the average dairy farm has 1.7 cows. Annual yields are low with an average of 3 tonnes per cow, which is less than a third of what an average Swedish cow produces. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that 45 per cent of local milk consumed is unprocessed, and is often sold as loose milk directly to households. Food safety is an issue as the milk is not safely processed and packaged, spoils quickly and exposes consumers to health risks.
The initiative is focused on developing a formal milk collection infrastructure and providing technical assistance to smallholder dairy farmers. By setting up the first dairy hub, more than 3,000 smallholder dairy farmers will be enrolled, with the objective of helping smallholder farmers to increase their income and lift them out of poverty. Through the Tetra Laval Food for Development team’s dairy farm specialists, technical assistance is provided to train extension officers (staff of the dairy processors), farmers and school milk stakeholders. All of the milk produced is purchased by dairy processors, which provides a secure income for the farmers and an opportunity to grow and develop their business.
So far, the results are promising. AGS and Lufra have invested in new cooling centres for the collection of milk and have hired extension staff and veterinarians to support the farmers. The supply of milk to the processors is increasing and milk quality is improving. After 16 months, the supply of milk to Lufra has increased by 41.6 per cent, from 60,000 to 85,000 litres per day. In the reference farms supplying AGS, milk production has increased by 119 per cent, from an average of 24.9 to 54.5 litres per farm per day after 7 months of training. Smallholder farmer monthly income has also increased by 92 per cent, from US$248.4 to US$477.9 per farm.
Increased milk consumption will drive the demand for quality milk from the formal dairy sector in the long term. The FAO and the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development have agreed with Tirana Municipality to start a pilot school milk programme. Children will receive 200 ml of UHT milk every school day. Albania has never had a school feeding programme and the schools are not equipped to serve cooked meals. Therefore, this initiative will benefit the school children who will receive much needed safe nutrition that is ready-to-drink.