(Circulated only for countries where foodcrops or supply situation conditions give rise to concern)

DATE: 26 March 1997

Outbreaks of civil unrest in Albania since early March are aggravating the already difficult food supply situation. As a result of poor wheat production in 1996, the country continues to rely largely on imports in the current 1996/97 marketing year to meet its needs for bread, the staple food, especially in urban areas. However, recent insecurity problems are threatening the continuity of wheat and other food supplies. State warehouses have been pillaged, imports interrupted due to border closures, and transportation within the country hampered by insecurity. Formal and informal flows of other foodstuffs such as vegetables, fruit and dairy and livestock products, from rural to urban areas have also been disrupted by insecurity. As a result, food prices in urban centres are reported to have risen sharply.

The Government has already imported wheat in the current year (1996/97 July/June) but the exact quantity is not known. Although small private sector imports have been made for some time, it was reported that these picked up pace in December 1996, when approximately 16 000 tons were landed at the port of Durres. However, with the total wheat import gap in 1996/97 estimated to be in the region of 700 000 tons, significant imports of wheat are still required to ensure continuity of bread supplies to the bulk of the population until the 1997 domestic crop becomes available. The Government's already constrained ability to buy wheat on a commercial basis has now been aggravated by insecurity.

Prospects for agricultural production in 1997 are very uncertain. As mentioned above, cereal crop production was well below potential in 1996 and is likely to remain low in 1997. Introduction of a series of land reforms in 1991, to transfer previously collectivized land to private ownership, resulted in a sharp fall in agricultural production. Although some recovery has been witnessed in the agricultural sector since then, production remains constrained by the still mostly fragmented land ownership structure and small farmersí poor access to credit (despite internationally supported Government schemes to provide credit for farmers). Wheat production in particular has been affected by the shift from large scale collectivized farming to small scale subsistence production of mainly cash crops and fodder. Although no clear indications on winter cereal plantings for 1997 harvest are available, farmersí incentives to plant wheat last autumn are reported to have been increased because of higher price prospects. Weather conditions were generally favourable but much will have depended on farmersí access to finance for inputs. Uncertainty over the outcome of the 1997 cereal crop is now heightened by the recent civil unrest, which could affect both yield prospects for growing winter crops and planting of spring cereals due to start soon. Shortages of essential seeds required for spring planting are also reported. The situation will be closely monitored by FAO/GIEWS.

This report is prepared on the responsibility of the FAO Secretariat with information from official and unofficial sources and is for official use only. Since conditions may change rapidly, please contact Mr. Abdur Rashid, Chief, ESCG, FAO, (Telex 610181 FAO I; Fax: 0039-6-5225-4495, E-Mail (INTERNET): GIEWS1@FAO.ORG) for further information if required.

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