As a candidate for EU accession, Albania needs to develop its agricultural sector, including milk production. Milk is mainly produced by smallholder farmers. The average dairy farm size is 1.7 cows and yields are low with an average of 3 tons per cow per year according to IFCN.
FAO estimates 45% of local milk consumed is unprocessed, often sold as loose milk directly to households. Food safety is an issue as the milk is not safely processed and packed, it gets spoiled quickly and exposes consumers to health risks. Dairy processors struggle with low quality raw milk due to lack of a formal milk collection infrastructure.
Tetra Pak and Tetra Laval Food for Development entered into three-year technical assistance agreement with dairy processors Agroal & Global Services Sh.p.k. (AGS) and Lufra Sh.p.k. (Lufra) to establish the first Dairy Hubs in Albania. The initiative is focused on developing a formal milk collection infrastructure and providing technical assistance to smallholder dairy farmers. The objective being that the training provided to smallholder farmers will help them 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 being purchased by the dairy processors, thus providing a secure income for the farmers and an opportunity to grow and develop their business.
The initiative reaches more than 3,000 smallholder dairy farmers, supporting them with training through a network of Extension Service Officers and ensuring their milk will be bought, with the improved quality criteria. AGS and Lufra have invested in new cooling centres for 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%, from 60,000 to 85,000 liters per day. In the reference farms supplying AGS, milk production has increased by 119%, from an average of 24.9 to 54.5 liters per farm per day after 7 months of training.
Increased milk consumption will be drivers to create demand for quality milk from the formal dairy sector in the long-term. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (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. The milk is collected from smallholder farmers and processed and packed by AGS.
This initiative will demonstrate that school children can receive much needed nutrition during the school day without the need for investments in school kitchens and canteens. For Albania to join the European Union, the standard of milk production needs to improve to meet the EU standards. A school milk programme serves the double purpose of providing much needed nutrition, and long term it helps change consumption habits and create demand for high quality dairy products from the formal dairy sector.