The agribusiness industry in North Macedonia is one of the fastest-growing industries with an over 10% increase in the last years. Adding value to the excellent quality agricultural products, as demanded by the main European markets, is one of the core Macedonian businesses. The Government of North Macedonia considers agriculture a target area for future investment, growth, and development, including increased foreign direct investment. Key government priority areas for cooperation are improved living and working conditions in rural areas, access to knowledge, and investment in human capital in the agriculture sector.
The sector’s competitive advantages include a unique combination of Continental and Sub-Mediterranean climates, environmentally friendly production practices, sound food processing technologies, qualified labor available throughout the rural areas, good access to regional markets, and a reputation for quality food products. The great natural preconditions and an existing tradition enriched with newly developed skills create a variety of opportunities in agriculture, from high mountain pastures of over 2000m high to the rich water valleys with a Mediterranean climate.
The agribusiness and food processing sector is the most important and promising economic sector of North Macedonia. Almost 435.500 people, out of a population of 2.1 million, make whole or part of their income from agriculture activities. In December 2020, the average gross monthly salary in this sector was €524. The agriculture sector is supported by a well-developed educational system consisting of 7 faculties specializing in the agriculture field. Additionally, there are secondary schools with branches in agriculture and forestry in 10 cities throughout North Macedonia.
Fresh fruit and vegetable production
Fresh fruit and vegetable production comprises 45.8 percent of agriculture output in the country and is export-oriented. Almost 80 percent of production is exported as fresh, preserved, or processed.
Preserved fruits and vegetables
The food processing industry in North Macedonia consists of 50 companies with a processing capacity of approximately 180,000 tons of fruits and vegetables per year. The industry is export-oriented, with over 80 percent of production going to the EU and neighboring markets as fresh for further processing.
Investments in Purchasing and Distribution Centers
To intensify the investment activities in improving the physical infrastructure in the marketing of agro-food products, the Government provides attractive locations in those rural areas in the country of particular importance for the production of fresh fruits and vegetables that are offered to the interested foreign investors to build purchase and distribution centers.
The most important export-oriented product in the cattle products group is lamb meat. Lamb is mainly exported to the EU countries, accounting for more than €10 million in revenues.
In the last decade, the development of fresh broiler chicken farms has been stimulated. North Macedonia remains one of the important producers in the region with almost unlimited export opportunities in the neighboring countries.
Meat Processing Industry
Due to the large consumption of meat in the region, there are great possibilities for investment in the meat processing industry, especially in the confection of lamb meat and its sales in the EU markets.
Industrial crops and Oriental Quality Tobacco
Industrial crop areas are comprised of 88% tobacco, 11.1% sunflower, and 1% poppy. Tobacco is the most important industrial crop and the domestic varieties have a specific oriental quality.
The production of high-quality wine is assured by controlling the types of grapes, vine plantations, harvest, and sophisticated processing technologies. These methods make Macedonian wines very competitive in international markets. Wine is one of the most important export products, both in the region and the EU countries.
North Macedonia has a significant potential for developing the organic sector considering its extensive traditional agriculture production and favorable climatic and soil conditions. It is the right place to develop organic agriculture as traditional methods in agricultural production are still in use, synthetic fertilizers and pesticides are already used in moderation and large areas are free from pollution.
The top markets for agriculture and food products are the EU (50.5% of total exports, including Greece 17.9%, Croatia 12.7%, Germany 12.1%), and CEFTA countries (33.98%). The main export products from North Macedonia are tobacco, confectionery products, fresh and processed vegetables and fruits, and wine.