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Agriculture and rural development

Agriculture in the enlargement countries

The status of enlargement countries

The EU has granted the prospect of EU membership to seven countries – six in the Western Balkans, as well as Turkey – subject to their fulfilment of the key 'Copenhagen criteria', pertaining to democracy, human rights and rule of law, and having a functioning market economy.

The countries are at different stages of the accession process.

  • Countries that have met the Copenhagen criteria have been granted the status of 'candidate' by the European Council. This status is currently held by Albania, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia, and Turkey.
  • Countries that have not yet demonstrated the fulfilment of the Copenhagen criteria are considered as 'potential candidates'. This status is currently held by Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo (the designation of Kosovo is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSCR 1244 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo Declaration of Independence).


Albania, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia, and Turkey are the five countries with the status of 'candidate'.

Economic importance of agriculture (updated March 2019)
Albania Montenegro North Macedonia Serbia Turkey
Total area   (km​2​) 28 750 13 812 25 713 88 407 783 562
Population (million) 2.8 0.6 2.1 7.2 78.7

Population density (km2​)

97 45.0 83.5 81.9 100.4
GDP (USD) 13 billion 4.84 billion 10.9 billion 42.5 billion 851.5 billion

GDP per capita (USD)

4 320 7 782 5 311 5 900 10 940
Percentage share of agriculture in GDP 22.9 8 2.9 7.5 7.5


Agriculture in Albania

Agriculture is one of the main sectors of the Albanian economy, generating approximately 23% of the country's GDP and providing employment to around 43% of the total employed.

The utilised agricultural area (UAA) is 1.18 million hectares (ha), which is 40.5% of the total land area of the country. Half of the UAA is arable land, 43% is permanent grassland and 7% is land under permanent crops.

Agricultural production has increased at an average rate of 3-3.5% per year since 2003. The increase in yields has been substantial for grapes, potatoes, milk from cattle and goats, eggs, fruit and fodder. Fruit production (including grapes) increased by 70% between 2000 and 2008, animal production by 21% and arable crops by 10% (even though wheat areas decreased markedly). The production of vegetables has increased significantly, particularly in greenhouses.

The biggest problems facing agriculture in Albania are:

  • migration from rural areas
  • very limited size of holdings (average of 1.2 ha – compared to 14 ha in the EU)
  • poor marketing of products
  • underdeveloped irrigation and drainage systems
  • low levels of technology
  • weak organisation of farmers and low level of development in the processing industry.

Related information

Albania's overall accession process

EU – Albania agri-food trade


Accession negotiations with Montenegro opened in June 2012, with Chapter 11 relating to agriculture and rural development opening in December 2016. Montenegro has to meet two closing benchmarks: an implementation plan to establish an integrated administration and control system and an implementation plan to set up a paying agency.

Agriculture in Montenegro

Montenegro has a surface area of 13,812 square kilometres, which represents 0.35% of the EU. Agricultural land accounts for 38% (517,000 ha) of the total territory. Covering a relatively small area and benefiting from a Mediterranean climate, Montenegro’s agriculture is quite diversified – from growing olives and citrus fruits in the coastal region, to early seasonal vegetables and tobacco in the central areas and extensive sheep breeding in the north.

The average size of utilised agricultural land per holding is 4.6 ha, but it is important to underline that 72% of agricultural holdings are 2 ha in size or less. The farm structure is dominated by small family farms, which produce mainly for their own consumption.

Agriculture is by far the largest activity of the rural population – more than 60,000 households obtain their income partly or entirely from agriculture.

Related information

Montenegro's overall accession process

EU – Montenegro agri-food trade

North Macedonia

Agriculture in North Macedonia

North Macedonia is a land-locked country that is very mountainous and intersected by large valleys. Hills and mountains account for around 79% of the land area with the balance made up of plains (19%) and natural lakes (2%).

Out of the total territory of the country:

  • 1.261 million ha or 50.1% is agricultural land (cultivated land, permanent pasture and meadow, land used for permanent crops and kitchen gardens);
  • 44.3% is under forests;
  • about 4% is water and other surfaces.

In 2013, cultivated land represented around 509,000 ha or about 40% of total agricultural land. Of the total cultivated land, 81% is arable land and gardens, 3% is under orchards, and 4% under vineyards, while meadows represent 11%.

The country is largely hilly and mountainous. The combination of continental and sub-Mediterranean climate, characterized by long, warm summers and short, relatively mild winters, along with fertile soil, provide generally excellent conditions for the production of a range of food products.

The structure of the agricultural sector is characterized by small-sized family farms, owned or leased, and highly fragmented into small parcels. The state farms are generally much larger.

The vast majority of the gross agricultural output (around 70%) is generated by crop production, with wheat and vegetables the main contributors. Potatoes, tomatoes and peppers dominate vegetable production and make North Macedonia a net exporter of processed vegetables. Other important agricultural products are fruit, cereals, tobacco and grapes for wine production as well as direct consumption. Livestock output has less importance, with dairy farming and cow milk production dominating this sub sector.

The agriculture sector contributes to nearly 10% of GDP and is relatively stable. As in many Western Balkan countries, almost half the population live in rural areas. Officially, almost one-fifth of the workforce is employed in agriculture. Agriculture has always served as a shock absorber for the socio-economic and structural changes in industry and other sectors of the economy.

The agri-food processing industry has always played an important role in North Macedonia. Over the last 10 years of privatisation, the industry suffered from political changes and difficulties in adapting to a market economy. The situation has improved in recent years, with a more market-oriented approach taking hold.

EU–North Macedonia relations

North Macedonia was the first country from the region to sign the Stabilization and Association Agreement in 2001. North Macedonia submitted an application for EU membership on 22 March 2004. At the end of 2009, the Commission judged that the country had reached a sufficient degree of compliance with the membership criteria and made a recommendation to open negotiations, which was repeated in subsequent years.

As a candidate country, North Macedonia is eligible for the five components under IPA assistance, including IPARD – the rural development component. The IPARD programme sets out detailed objectives for the agricultural sector and outlines the measures which seek to achieve them.

Related information

North Macedonia's overall accession process

EU – North Macedonia agri-food trade


Accession negotiations with Serbia opened in January 2014. Negotiations on Chapter 11 – agriculture and rural development have yet to open.

Agriculture in Serbia

Serbia's UAA is 3.44 million ha, which accounts for 43% of the total territory. Arable land is the predominant land use (73%) followed by permanent grassland and crops. Characterised by rich land resources and a favourable climate, agriculture represents a vital sector of the Serbian economy.

Of the 631,552 agricultural holdings, nearly half of these are less than two ha using only 8% of the area. Serbian terrain ranges from the flat and rich lowlands of Vojvodina in the north (suited to crop farming and vegetable production), to hilly terrain in central Serbia and high mountains on the eastern, western and southern borders of the country (suitable for sheep and cattle breeding, and fruit and wine production).

Serbia has significant comparative advantages in agriculture due to the abundance of high quality agricultural land, a strategic trading location and high levels of education.

Related information

Serbia's overall accession process

EU – Serbia agri-food trade


Agriculture in Turkey

Agriculture is of key importance to Turkey, in both social and economic terms. About half of Turkey's total land area is devoted to agriculture, which is slightly above the EU average. Turkish accession would therefore add about 39 million ha to the EU's agricultural area, which would represent 20% of the total agricultural area. In 2014, 21% of the workforce was employed in agriculture.

The farm structure in Turkey shows similarities with some of the new EU countries. According to the 2011 census, there are approximately 3 million agricultural holdings in Turkey (compared to approximately 12 million in the EU), most of which are family farms employing family labour. Holdings are smaller than the EU average (6 ha compared to 13 ha in the EU).

Subsistence and semi-subsistence farming is an important characteristic of Turkish agriculture. In these farms, productivity of the factors of production is typically low, and only a small fraction of produce is marketed.

In the arable crops sector, Turkey is a major producer. In 2017, the production of cereals in Turkey (including rice) was 36 million tons. Turkey is a major world player in the production of nuts, in particular for hazelnuts, of which it is the world’s largest exporter. Turkey’s quality/price ratio is very competitive due to its climate and low labour costs.

For other crops, Turkey is also a competitive producer (in EU and world terms) of certain grain legumes such as chickpeas and lentils, of cotton, and of some qualities of sugar, tobacco and olive oil. For animals and animal products, Turkey has a highly protected market which includes import restrictions. Turkish meat consumption per head is about one-fifth of the EU average; for sheep meat, it is higher than in the EU. Consumption of cow milk is at half the EU level, while eggs are consumed at a slightly lower level than in the EU.

Related information

Turkey's overall accession process

EU – Turkey agri-food trade

Potential candidates

Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Kosovo have the status of 'potential candidate'.

Economic importance of agriculture (latest update March 2019)
Bosnia and Herzegovina Kosovo
Total area (km​2​) 51 209 10 908
Population (million) 3.8 1.8
Population density (km2​) 75.1 165
GDP (USD) 17.3 billion 7.2 billion
GDP per capita (USD) 5 093 3 900
Percentage share of agriculture in GDP 3.3 10

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Agriculture in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Agriculture is one of the most important economic activities in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In 2016, the country had 2.2 million ha of agricultural land, out of total area of 5.113 million ha in the country. Of this, 1.6 million ha was arable land and 600,000 ha were pastures.

Bosnia and Herzegovina is relatively poor in agriculture resources: large parts of the country are mountainous (66% of the territory is considered mountainous or hilly) and only 20% (roughly 1 million ha) is suitable for intensive farming. The high availability of grassland and mountainous pastures suggests a potential advantage for the production of livestock and dairy products. Orchards and vineyards cover approximately 100,000 ha.

The structure of the agricultural sector is characterised by small sized family farms, which to a large extent are produced for home consumption – over 50% of agriculture holdings are estimated to be less than 3 ha.

Agricultural production in Bosnia and Herzegovina is dominated by crop production, with livestock production representing less than one-third of the total output. There has been a slight increase in this share in recent years due to the increase in cow milk production. Economically, the most important sub-sector of the country's agriculture is vegetables. Of considerable importance are also fresh cow milk, maize and potatoes.

EU-Bosnia and Herzegovina relations

Bosnia and Herzegovina participates in the Stabilisation and Association Process and is committed to engage in necessary political, economic and social reforms, leading to a closer relationship with the EU and to potential future accession.

The negotiations on a Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) were launched in November 2005. On 16 June 2008, the SAA was signed, but only entered into force in June 2015.

The EU is the largest provider of financial assistance to Bosnia and Herzegovina, with €690 million in EU pre-accession funds.

Related information

Bosnia and Herzegovina’s overall accession process

EU – Bosnia and Herzegovina agri-food trade


*This designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSCR 1244 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo Declaration of Independence.

Agriculture in Kosovo

Agricultural holdings in Kosovo are very small and mostly semi-subsistent. The average land holding per family is about 3.2 ha, of which on average 1.6 ha is arable land, typically fragmented into six to eight plots. 97% of holdings are less than 5 ha, while less than 1% of holdings above 10 ha.

Similarly, herd size is small. The majority of households with cattle have 1-3 cows. Besides being one of the most important sectors of the economy, agriculture also provides a social safety net for a large number of poor and elderly people that depend on subsistence farming for their livelihoods. Food expenditure represents a high proportion of total household expenditure.

Related information

Kosovo's overall accession process

EU – Kosovo agri-food trade