Albania cracks down on cannabis trade ahead of hoped-for EU talks

Small producers see income hit as Tirana seeks to boost legitimate agriculture
Financial Times (UK)
Friday, July 21, 2017

Thousands of small producers have made Albania, Europe’s second-poorest country, its biggest open-air producer of cannabis, exported mainly to western Europe through Greece and Italy. But as Albania tries to clean up its act ahead of hoped-for EU accession talks next year, the government is cracking down on the drug trade. In the past year alone, the area under plantation has dropped by 75 per cent. In the desperately poor countryside, there is a strong economic imperative to grow the crop. Cannabis cultivation provides a cash income in rural areas, where the estimated unemployment rate is 70 per cent. Local growers are estimated to have earned around €300m last year, a similar amount to the annual remittances sent home by Albanians working in western Europe.