Fertilizers on the rise, but Albanian farmer sees his future in coffee grounds – Sciences et Avenir

Every day, Alban Kakalli, a small Albanian peasant, goes around the bars, collecting coffee grounds. Faced with rising fertilizer costs, he returned to traditional methods of fertilizing his land.

The 38-year-old farmer owns only half a hectare in Mamurras in the northwestern Balkan country, but he can no longer enrich his vegetable and exotic fruit crops with the chemical fertilizers that have been used so far.

Under the influence of the coronavirus pandemic and the war in Ukraine, food markets have shrunk, fuel prices have risen sharply, as well as nitrogen fertilizers from gas, the main producer of which is Moscow.

So the farmer uses pomace, an excellent natural fertilizer, which he says is found in abundance in a country where coffee is the main drink. He collects 40 kg per day.

Farmer Alban Kakalli collects coffee grounds at a bar near Mamurras, Albania on August 2, 2022 to use as fertilizer on his farm. (AFP/Archive – Gent SHKULLAKU)

“Albanians are coffee lovers, they are among the first in Europe in terms of the amount of coffee consumed,” says Alban Cakalli.

The process takes a long time because you have to go around the grand dukes before you mix the pomace with herbs and compost it for three months. But these residues are “rich in nitrogen, magnesium and potassium and make a very good substitute for chemical fertilizers” in addition to being “insect repellent,” he emphasizes.

It is difficult to get figures in a poor country where out of 350,000 farmers 280,000 are small independent peasants. But many, like Alban, have returned to traditional methods, according to several accounts.

– Captivating aroma –

According to experts, production resources, fertilizers and fuel account for more than 45% of the cost of agricultural products. Albania imports all of its fertilizers due to the destruction of its factories after the fall of communism in the early 1990s.

“Coffee grounds save me between 1,500 and 2,000 euros a year,” said Alban Cakalli, whose wife is expecting her third child.

Faced with a decline in prices for cucumbers and tomatoes, the farmer diversified. He turned to exotic foods – passion fruit, goji berries – one of the few happy aftermaths of Covid-19 that halted imports from South America as demand surged.

“During the pandemic, these fruits were in high demand because they are known to help boost the immune system and have antioxidant properties,” explains his wife, Julie Cacalli, a 34-year-old nurse.

This year, Alban Cakalli harvested half a ton of passion fruit, the enchanting aroma of which mingles with the aroma of coffee. They sell for 15 euros per kilogram, a significant sum in Albania, where the average salary is 460 euros.

“People like them a lot, they smell fantastic, even better than the countries of origin, because everything is fresh,” he says, believing that exoticism is a lifeline for Albanian agriculture.

“Unhappiness is good for everyone,” said Alban Zusi, an entrepreneur who has been producing organic fertilizer from animal waste in Lezha, in the north of the country, for a year now.

“Despite the challenges, there are many opportunities,” adds Fatmir Ndoji, head chef at a renowned agritourism farm-restaurant in the region. “Quality is important in creating happiness in the mouth.”

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