I’m two weeks into it now. We recently received UN HQ and local country office approval to participate in an outreach project that will educate consumers on the benefits of drinking UHT milk – the type of milk that you can store on (unrefrigerated) shelves for months without it going bad. Particularly in smaller towns and villages, people drink unprocessed milk straight from the farm. You see it in Tirana too, sometimes – guys standing on the sidewalk selling milk that has been packaged in reused soda bottles. Our role will be to do outreach to farmers, to explain to them how the market (and the law) is moving toward processed milk, and how they need to move with it or eventually lose customers, or worse.* We don’t have to become dairy farm experts, of course; we will find consultants to address the technical issues.
The challenge is that the majority of Albania’s dairy farms are 1-2 cow family farms located in the countryside. While the farmers could get together to pool their milk in cooling centers, experience shows that they refuse to participate in anything that smacks of collectivization. Moreover, in the absence of food regulation, there are incentives to not play by the rules and to adulterate their milk in some manner instead. This will be a challenging project, to say the least, but possibly a great deal of fun.
We’re also exploring the possibility of reintroducing cotton cultivation to the south on behalf of another client. Albania grew cotton until the fall of Communism, when it’s economic non-viability became obvious and, as a further complicating factor, mobs destroyed the processing factories. World prices are low, thanks in large part to U.S. subsidies, but the market for organic cotton holds some promise, so we’re seeing what we might be able to cobble together for a pilot project.
So that’s what I do. The dog doesn’t like being left alone all day, but it’s good to be wearing a suit again.
*This assumes, of course, that anyone actually enforces the law, which was designed to bring Albanian food production into line with European Union standards.