Olive trees cover an estimated 8% of the arable land. The coast from Saranda (South) to Shkodra (North) and inland river valleys in the districts of Peqin/Elbasan, Berat/Skrapar, and Tepelene/Permet. In 1946 Albania had about 1.5 million olive trees, by 1990, the number of olive trees increased to 5.9 million covering 45,000 hectares. During this period, large olive plantations were established in Ksamil, Lukova and Borsh (Saranda district); in Jonufer (Vlora district); in Poshnje, Kutalli Malinat (Berat district); in many of the hills in Lushnja, Fier, Tirana; and from coastal Durres up to Ana e Malit (Shkoder district).
During the privatization of farm land in 1991 and 1992, 45,000 hectares of olive groves were distributed to 110,000 households, resulting in highly fragmented olive production. Although historically considered to be sacred and well protected by laws, olive plantations suffered massive destruction caused by civil unrest’s in the early 1990’s and the number of trees decreased to 3.5 million by 1996. After the country restored political and economic stability in 1999, the olive sector has attracted special interest from the government and private investors, giving rise to considerable growth. The annual number of new trees planted increased from 86,000 in 2000 to 235,000 in 2006.
One of the most important factors affecting productivity of the olive tree is its cultivar. Albania is rich with more than 28 varieties grown throughout the country. The nine most cultivated are:
Kalinjot, Kokërrmadh i Beratit, Frantoio (Italian), Kokërrmadh Elbasani, Mixan, Ulli i Bardhë Tiranes, Nisiot, Ulli i Hollë I Himares.
The two leaders are “Kalinjot”, which covers about 40% of the total plantations for oil and table use; and “Kokermadh i Beratit”, representing approximately 21% of table olives. The production averages 30-38 thousands tons per year, and growing.
The interaction of the Albanian varieties with the local environment (soil, climate, altitude) and cultural practices results in the special characteristics and tastes distinctive to the oils produced in various regions of throughout Albania.
The tradition of forgoing commercial fertilizers and pesticides has created interesting opportunities for “clean and green” organic-type products. Some growers take advantage of this tradition of low input usage and a few processors are producing organically certified olive oil, predominantly for export.
Association: Albanian Alimentary Oil Association (AOA)