Mikel Hoxha left Albania to work in construction in Greece. He says that he had to move to Greece because of difficult economic conditions and the lack of jobs and professional prospects in his homeland. He worked there for some years in the construction sector, where the work was tough and life did not get easier. For this reason, ten years ago he decided to come back to his roots in Fier, and try his luck back home. He joined forces with other family members to start a new business, but never thought that it would become as successful as it is now.
Immediately on return from Greece he constructed a small greenhouse. The idea was to grow vegetables on a small scale, distribute to nearby markets and make a living for himself and his family. At that time, he was a pioneer in his region for this type of agricultural business as no other villagers from his town or the surrounding area had greenhouses. He also remembers that the beginning was very difficult as he had no substantial amount of money for investment and no support from the government or any other institution. But eventually, hard work and his innovative approach paid off and he got into a different type of agricultural business that grew steadily and turned him into an important entrepreneur in the area.
One of the most important preconditions for agriculture is having high quality and well-priced seeds and seedlings. As Mikel did not have any money to import seeds, he started to cultivate his own for the needs of his small greenhouse. With practice, he became good at this and villagers from around the area who had already started their own greenhouses started to come and order seedlings from him. “I saw a great opportunity in seedlings, and decided to expand the greenhouse where I could produce seeds for sale to other farmers,” says Mikel.
Over the years, Mikel became one of the leading entrepreneurs selling seeds in his area. Currently he produces and sells over 12 million seedlings annually. In addition, he has already exported watermelon seedlings to Montenegro and last year started exporting small quantities of seedlings to Italy and Bulgaria.
The business was growing steadily but Mikel needed support in order to take it to the next level. He heard about the EU-funded Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance for Rural Development (IPARD) programme and as he was a perfect fit in terms of eligibility, he decided to apply.
With IPARD support, Mikel constructed another modern greenhouse of 4830m2 equipped with the necessary technology and systems that allow the annual planting and cultivation of seedlings. “The support from the EU was a point where I could make the big leap from being a farmer to being a real entrepreneur in the seed business,” says Mikel.
The support from the IPARD covered 65% of the investment and for the rest he had to take a bank loan. Mikel had tried before to get a loan from a bank to expand his business but had not been successful. He explains that when he was granted the support from IPARD then the banks were ready to support the remaining part.
Mikel currently has 25 workers, and is planning to increase the workforce in the future. He has also bought some new land as the orders for seedlings are increasing constantly. “Agriculture is a very good business as long as you are committed to working hard and keeping the quality of your products consistent,” he says.
About the programme
Part of the Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance (IPA) designed to support countries on the path to EU membersip, the Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance for Rural Development (IPARD) focuses on the agri-food sectors of those countries and rural areas. Through this tool, the EU provides beneficiaries with financial and technical help to make their agricultural sector and rural areas more sustainable, aligning them with the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy.
Photo credits: Mikel Hoxha
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