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[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Albania is one of the richest and highest quality sources of many botanicals, making it an already known source of supply – 15% of its 3250 species are of medicinal, aromatic, spice or tannin value (see Appendix 1 for a list of the main species). According to E. Haxhialushi, this number goes up to 690 species, ranking it as the first country in Europe and one of the first in the World for their multitude.
The outstanding environment and nature of Southern Albania and its significance for Europe’s biodiversity is known since long and has been pointed out in recent publications. Although relevees and vegetation descriptions already exist from the first half of this century) up to now general and recent information on the flora and vegetation for the Albanian territory are scarce.
Non-Timber Forest Products (NTFP)5 or Secondary Forest Products (SFP) have been and still are an important economic source in South Albania. Beside the timber, NTFP or SFP are products of biological origin which are generated by natural forests, by other forestated areas and individual trees outside the forestry fund6. NTFP can be harvested in nature, produced in forestry plantation, in plots planted with trees and crops, as well as separate woods. As an example of NTFP worth mentioning are edible products (fruits, mushrooms, herbs, spices and gamy), fibres (that are used in construction, furniture, clothes or tools), resin, essential oils, gums, plant and animal products used for medicinal, cosmetic or cultural purposes.
In general, in our country and especially in the southern Region, wide knowledge on the use of NTFP in cooking or cures exists. The Institute of Alternative Medicine in Tirana carries out research on the curative properties of NTFP. NTFP industry in Albania has a tradition of more than 60 years. The maximum level of production of NTFP was achieved in the ’80. In this period, at the end of the Communist era, with a cooperative structure having regional collection centres and warehouses, exports of NTFP was exceeding 30 Million USD. In the same period, about 100.000 people in all the country were involved in the NTFP sector, working as collectors or workers in the collection-processing and forestry state enterprises. Due to the combination of long tradition and state control, Albania had a very good reputation for quality and reliability, making this sector an important industry in the early 1990’s.
With the opening up of the economy and the break of the organised state control of this sector, hundreds of traders attempted to break into the international market lacking of knowledge and infrastructure and aiming a fast profit. They could not establish long-term contracts and trust and therefore left the sector due to bankruptcy or became accumulator or collectors without reaching the level of exporters again.
As an activity, NTFP includes:
• Medicinal and aromatic plants, dried and pressed in balls;
• Essential oils
• Fibrous products, i.e. willow, hay and other plants used in the furniture industry;
• Edible fruits, for instance, chestnut, hazelnuts (filbert) and mushrooms;
• Tannin extracted by lends of Quercus aegilops ssp. macrolepis Kotschy and tanner’s sumach (Rhus coriaria).
• Pine resin;
• Animal products, i.e. meat (frogs, snails, pheasant and grouse), honey and furs.
The vast majority is exported for use in various segments of the natural products industry, including culinary spices, teas, liquors, essential oils, cosmetics and personal care products, herbal medicines, dietary supplements, pharmaceuticals, colorants, flavourings, insecticides, perfumes and dyes. Only about 5% are consumed nationally (Lange 1998a7 in Kathe et al. 20038). The main markets of these products are presented in Table 1. Since most of NTFP production in Albania is constituted by medicinal and aromatic plants, the use of these terms is alternated. We will also use botanicals or only medicinal plants.