8 August 2012Kosovo is taking measures to reduce its dependence on imports of wheat, corn and flour through increased subventions for the agriculture sector, especially in wheat farming.
Financial support from the government for wheat production in Kosovo reached 4.4m euros this year, Adil Behramaj, spokesperson for the Kosovo Agriculture Ministry, told SETimes. "The result of the support was 6,000 [additional] hectares of wheat planted this year," Behramaj said.
Salih Salihu, a farmer and professor of agriculture at the Pristina University, started to grow wheat, corn, potatoes and onions, three years ago in Viti.
He is one of the farmers that received government subventions. "Kosovo has given out subventions of 100 euros per hectare, foreseen only for the farmers that plant more than two hectares," Salihu told SETimes.
Salihu owns 58 hectares of land, out of which 45 were planted with wheat last year, and 27 hectares this year.
"We usually plant large areas with wheat, but this depends from year to year. There was a high yield this year compared to the last," Salihu told SETimes.
The wheat crop did not give high yield elsewhere in Kosovo. Daily Koha Ditore reported in early August that in Rahovec, the farmers reported half of last year's harvest; 5,500kg per hectare of wheat last year, and only 3,900kg per hectare this year.
Behramaj said that wheat production is lower in the entire region this year due to high temperatures and drought. Kosovo aims to compensate lower wheat production per hectare with more planting areas, which should even out wheat production for both years.
But Salihu said there are a number of difficulties for higher wheat production, such as securing quality seeds and fertilizers.
"Seeds are imported from the neighbouring countries and are not of high quality, most of the time. High-cost fertilizers are also imported and not of a guaranteed quality," Salihu said.
Behramaj said Kosovo had 83,875 hectares planted with wheat this year, and expected a production of around 4 tonnes per hectare.
Kosovo's general wheat need is around 410,000 tonnes, he said. The country's overall wheat import is around 130,000 tonnes. Kosovo imports wheat, corn and flour mostly from Serbia and Russia.
"Kosovo is expected to meet 75% of its domestic consuming needs for wheat," Behramaj told SETimes.
According to Salihu, Kosovo produces from 200,000 to 250,000 tonnes of wheat.
"It is important that Kosovo increases wheat production because it spends around 35m euros per year buying wheat," Salihu said, adding that more wheat planting areas and higher production per hectare are needed.
"To meet the consuming needs for wheat, the areas sown with wheat should be extended, the agro-technical measures improved, and the farmers should be educated on their implementation. That would increase the production," Behramaj told SETimes.