(from “Report on existing GAPs and Best Practices”) Milk and dairy sector is one of the most important sectors in terms of number of farmers involved in the sector (over 240,000 farms, approximately 70% of total ) considering dairy cattle and small ruminants), contribution to income and food, contribution to the environment as well as regarding other factors (history, prevalent role in socio-economic patterns in inner areas etc.); also, Albanian consumers regularly rank among the top world consumers of milk and dairy products, with a yearly per capita consumption of 317 I .
Mixed crop-and-livestock and dairy farms are labour-intensive: typically, the average Albanian small livestock farm is managed by 1 to 2 family members. Family labour continues to be the most important, while in large farms except the family members there are also employees being hired.
After a Constant increase in total milk production between 2000 and 2014, the national milk production stabilized and then started to decline after 2017, with dairy cow milk production being in 2019 the same as it was in 2010.
The overall sector underwent a process of rationalisation and consolidation in the last ten years, a process recoded in other sectors a well; during this period. Productivity increased by 13-14%, depending on type of livestock (dairy cattle, ewes or does), while the number of dairy livestock slightly decreased (dairy cattle and ewes) or increased less than proportionally (goats); the same trend was recorded in dairy industry, where the number of dairy processing plants of all sizes decreased from 352 to 316, but total output increased.
As a whole, total milk production remained stable in the last decade (+3.9%), with oscillations from year to year and slightly different dynamics by type of milk (faster increase in small ruminants’ milk). Trade balance is increasingly in deficit (28.4 M Euro in 2019); however, domestic milk supply account for 96% of total supplies in liquid milk equivalent.
In parallel with the process of sector consolidation, polarisation is ongoing. A segment of the sector is improving (investing to overcome weaknesses to exploit opportunities), while another is in a defensive position (i.e., facing threats that risk exacerbating weaknesses):
Milk primary production mainly consists in dairy cow milk (943,000 Tons, 85% of total); the amount of dairy cow milk remained approximately the same over the last decade, even if a growing cycle is visible in the period 2010-2017, followed by a reduction. In this case, the main issue is related to the fact that after 2017 the establishment of few modern and large farms and the overall increase of milk yields per head did not compensate for anymore the decline in number of mixed farms having less than 5 dairy cows. The majority of cattle are kept in the lowlands, whilst the majority of small ruminants, especially goats, are kept in the highlands in the north and south of the country where they graze on the extensive mountain pastures during the summer months.
In particular, dairy cattle breeding are relatively concentrated in the region of Fier and around Tirana: four municipalities (out of 61) produce 24% of total dairy cow milk output.
Small ruminants are the major economically important livestock in the highland parts of the country (north east and south east) generating cash and providing a kind of safety net in years of bad crops.
There is a difference in distribution of sheep and goat population in relation to the terrain characteristics: goat breeding is prevalent in mountain areas, while sheep breeding is more common in hilly areas. However, the few existing large goat farms (>500 heads) are established in low hills and lowlands.
Large quantities of cow milk are being marketed and consumed by the farm families. An increasing share of milk produced by small farmers are used as animal feed, as low farm gate prices paid to small farmers encourage to a reorientation of small livestock farms towards meat production.
Table: Evolution of dairy livestock, milk production and yields
Source: MARD (2010), INSTAT (2014; 2020)