“I have been involved in trading for 20 years. Initially, I started the business with vegetable cultivation in greenhouses, and now I export thousands of tons of Albanian produce to European and wider markets,” begins Nedreta Arapi, an entrepreneur from Lushnja.
Nedreta, whom everyone calls Neta, shares the story of her life, which has been filled with challenges.
“In the year 2000, I started growing vegetables in the greenhouses near my home in Ziane, Lushnja. At that time, the word ‘export’ didn’t even exist for us farmers, and the biggest problem we all faced was surplus production. Initially, I tried to sell in the local market of Lushnja, but even there, I couldn’t find enough demand. So, I went to Divjake. There, I got in touch with some traders from Montenegro and Kosovo. These were my first steps as an exporter. The business was doing well, and I started expanding. I hired workers, but as my land couldn’t meet the demands, I began connecting with other local farmers,” says Neta.
Later, she opened a collection point on the outskirts of Lushnja, close to the national road. As the years passed, the demand for exports increased, and the existing facilities could no longer meet the needs of wholesalers. Therefore, she sought investments to build a new and larger collection point with modern technology and conditions to comply with European standards. To achieve this, the entrepreneur turned to ARDA (Agricultural and Rural Development Agency) for financial support.
Mrs. Arapi applied for Measure 3 – Sector of Fruits and Vegetables “Investment in the construction of an agricultural warehouse for the collection and export of fruits and vegetables,” to build the “new home” for her business. Arapi was financed by IPARD with a grant of 189 thousand euros, along with the contribution from the Albanian government of 63 thousand euros.
Her new warehouse covers an area of about 1540 m², where fruits and vegetables are collected, sorted, calibrated, and packaged for export. The facility includes three large refrigerated rooms.The entire investment has aimed to introduce and improve technologies that meet EU standards for improving food safety and quality systems. Located about 6 km from the city’s fruit and vegetable wholesale market, this warehouse serves multiple purposes and has a mutual relationship with this market.
The wholesaler says that the construction of this warehouse has further increased her business’s capacity, leading to the expansion of her staff. She shares that foreign exporters are highly satisfied with the excellent conditions for handling agricultural produce.
Nedreta has signed contracts with 1500 farmers from whom she purchases agricultural produce. Sometimes, this number is even higher. In her warehouse, more than 40 women are employed, handling the packaging and arranging products in boxes for export.