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Country report Macedonia

Greenhouse crop production in the Republic of Macedonia
(Latest developments)

General information

Geographical position: 40°30'- 42°06'N and 20°18'-23°00'E

Total Area: 25 710 km2; the territory is mountainous with deep basins and valleys.
Population: 2,071,210

Land Use: arable land: 22.26%
permanent crops: 1.81%
other: 75.93%

GDP - per capita: 6,700 USD (2003 est.)

GDP - composition by sector:
agriculture: 11.3%
industry: 32.1%
services: 56.6% (2003 est.)

Agricultural exports: tobacco, vegetables, fruits

Climate Combination of temperate and cold types climate: dry summers and relatively cold winters.

Agricultural sector

The agriculture sector is the third contributor to national income (after services and industry). The agriculture suffered the loss of the traditional markets in former Yugoslavia, but not as much as other sectors and there were not big changes, because it has been privatised before the proclamation of independence.
The Republic of Macedonia (FY) has applied for participation in the EU and recently has signed the association agreement. Agriculture production generally meets its basic food needs, but it is influenced by rainfall so the increase of irrigation capacity has enormous reserves for the yield. The market demand has also a considerable influence on vegetables and fruit production.
The family based farms, relatively small, existing since the time of ex-Yugoslavia are in the basis of agriculture production. More than 70% of the land belongs to private farms: there are approximately 178 000 individual farms in about 450 000 ha, with an average size of 2.5 ha per farm. In the vegtable sector the farm size is even smaller ranging from 0.2 -1.0 ha.

The agro-processing industries have been privatised and even increased their capacity. Important projects on irrigation aim to be the priority of government investments and programmes in agriculture for the future.
Extension services helping the farmers are state organised in regions by regional specialists, dependent of research institutes.
A number of international and bilateral projects have been applied in agriculture, supporting private farmers, irrigation, export opportunities, mechanisation, seed supply, livestock production, etc., mainly by the WB, GTZ (German Technical Co-operation, FAO, IFAD, Japan, Netherlands and USAID. It is considered that IFAD project that makes available the most interesting loans for private farmers: 1500-75000 US$ with interest rate 10-12 % for 6 years.

Climatic conditions

The climate of the Republic of Macedonia is highly favourable for greenhouse crop production in the majority of the area, especially in the south and south eastern area, where the average temperature in December and in January is between 1,4 to 4,7 °C. (Tab.1). The area of Gevgelija, Strumica, Kocani, Shtip, Veles is the typical area where large blocks of glasshouses have been constructed and still used. Good possibilities for greenhouse crop production exist also in other areas as e.g. in Skopje surroundings, in Ohrid and in Kriva Palanka due also to the high number of sunshine hours.

Vegetable production in greenhouses

FYR of Macedonia is a unique country where the surface of vegetables makes up for about 10% of the total arable land (Tab. 2). From 1995 onwards, the vegetable production has been continuously increasing and in 1999 (compared to 1995) the total vegetable production increased by 7%, that of tomato by 4%, of cucumbers by 6% and of watermelons by 3%. A general yield increase of about 28% is in the basis of this difference (Tab. 3).

The greenhouse cultivation of vegetables is considered as a profitable activity. Tomato and cucumber are available for market/export from April. Macedonia is the largest exporter of fresh tomato in the Balkans region with 61% of the market share in quantity and 69% in value. Paprika and tomatoes are mainly exported to some of the Balkan countries, but they cannot compete on the Croatian and Slovenian market, where tomato with better presentation (i.e. packaging, calibrating and sorting) is more appreciated. Nevertheless their high level quality, due to lack of auction centres where standardization, calibration could increase the value of vegetables, their export from greenhouses has remained in the traditional markets of Balkan and of the ex Yugoslavia.

The glasshouse construction on large scale in Macedonia has begun after 1960s. From 22 ha their surface increased to 206 ha in 1978. The development of glasshouses in Macedonia reached its maximum in 1987 with 276 ha. However, during the process of privatisation, many of the glasshouse complexes have been abandoned and neglected. The active glasshouse area in 2003 was 185 ha with a total production of 25,000 t, which is 20% more than in the three previous years average.

The general area of protected cultivation from 3269 ha or 5.8% in 1990 went to more than 10,000 ha in 2003. More than 80% of total tomato is cultivated in glasshouses, plastic greenhouses and tunnels.

The uncontrolled growth of low tunnel area along to the lack of the opening of new markets and the lack of big marketing centres is causing an overproduction of vegetables in July, which puts before farmers the need for a better distribution of production during the year and also its diversification. The growers decide to plant based in the previous year price and this is causing different anomalies in the market. The majority of fresh vegetables is commercialised in green markets and not in supermarkets.

There is a very good tradition and know how in greenhouse vegetable production, but for the introduction of new technology and for the coordination of greenhouse production some specialised centres that could do the information and advising are needed. The activity of private associations of greenhouse farmers is being developed with success in some regions and they need to be supported in different ways to gain more experience.

The main regions of vegetable protected cultivation are situated in the South, in South East and in North East of the country. They mostly encircle major settlements as Gevgelija (South), the valleys of Strumica, Valandovo, and Bogdanci (South East), the Kochani and Vinica (East), Ovche pole (North East) and the valleys of Skopia and Kumanovo (North). The tunnels have more or less the same distribution, and part of them are used for the production of seedlings.

Construction, climate control and irrigation in protected cultivation

The glasshouses in Macedonia are generally multispan, single wall and are mainly imported from dealers from Holland, Bulgaria or Israel. There have been build 250 ha multispan glasshouses and only 20 ha single span. The construction of Dutch 'Venlo' mixed with Bulgarian type prevail. In plastic covered greenhouses the old domestic type construction are being followed by Israeli or Greek type.

The tunnels are covered mainly with PE UV stabilised, with CO extruded 3 layer film and also PVC is used. The plastic materials have a thickness of 18-20 m. PE is used mainly for mulching and also straw for cucumber growing. The plastic film for tunnels is used for three years. Aluminium and galvanised steel are used along with wood for plastic greenhouses, while for glasshouses galvanised steel and steel + aluminium are more used.

Modern technologies offered by importing companies from Holland and Israel are used in glasshouses. Strong links with these companies supply glasshouses with appropriate seeds, fertilisers, predators for biological control, etc. Soil-less technology is applied only in some private glasshouses where rock wool, perlite and peat is used as substrate.

Heating is used in all glasshouses and also in some plastic covered greenhouses. Warm water boilers are generally used in order to ensure continuous optimised thermostat regime. Heavy fuel and petrol are the main energy sources, while geothermal water is being used in smaller level, in about 40 ha, mainly in glasshouses, in Kocani. Cooling is mainly static of mist and fog type and ventilation is achieved through ridge ventilation and also through combined type (with gable and side wall).

Drip irrigation and fertigation are the most used, but furrow irrigation is applied too, even to some glasshouses. In glasshouses fertigation is generally used with dosing pump and also with diluters. The greenhouses are disinfected using steam (mainly in glasshouses) and other chemicals as Bazamit, Mocap and Contrer, while methyl bromide is not any more in use.

Biological and integrated pest control has been applied successfully in some glasshouse blocks under the direction of Vegetable Crop Institute, as the unique control. Biological products has been as well produced, but this kind of production needs further stimulation i.e. relative to controls, labelling and price mechanism.

Exploitation, yield and cultivars in protected areas

Heating is used only for glasshouses and for some small areas of plastic covered greenhouses, while in other greenhouse types as tunnels and the majority of plastic covered greenhouses, the vegetables are grown without heating. The most important crops from economic point of view are tomatoes, sweet peppers and cucumbers.

Two production cycles are practised in order to reach the high price market period. The first one starts in mid-January (or in February to avoid high fuel cost) and ends in mid to end June or even later. The second one starts at the end of July and terminates by November-December. The University, state research centres and also private seed companies help the farmers with technology problems, plant protection, choice, etc. Nematode detection is seldom a problem for many farmers. Due to high fuel prices the areas of glasshouses for winter production are limited in the last years.

The yield of tomatoes in glasshouses ranges from 100 to 130 t/ha while that of cucumber ranges from 160 to 200 t/ha.

The majority of seeds used in greenhouse production are imported from abroad, mainly from Holland and Israel, such as: most frequently grown cucumber hybrids and cultivars are Nevada, Sandra, Rambo, Thander, Jeser, Calunga, Dalibor, Torna and Adrian, for tomato Beley, Shaman, Marfa, Monica, Sinatra, Gioronda and Amati. Beside the locally bred hot pepper varieties, Inferno started to be very famous among the greenhouse growers, as well as block pepper hybrid Beladona.

Republic of MACEDONIA - Tables

Table 1 The monthly average temperatures in the main greenhouse areas (°C)

Site Months
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec


3,30 5,30 8,70 13,40 18,30 21,90 24,90 24,10 20,10 14,20 8,90 4,70


1,70 4,00 8,00 13,20 18,00 21,90 24,40 24,00 20,10 13,50 7,80 3,40


0,90 3,70 7,90 12,90 17,70 21,50 23,60 22,90 19,00 12,90 7,10 2,20


0,49 3,15 7,76 12,44 17,26 20,90 23,34 22,79 18,94 13,29 6,98 2,27


1,40 4,10 8,30 13,10 17,80 21,40 23,50 23,10 19,40 13,90 7,90 2,90


1,70 2,70 5,80 9,90 14,60 18,30 20,70 20,40 16,90 11,90 7,20 3,30

Table 2 The place of vegetables in the total area

Land Use
(000 ha)
Vegetables Cereals Fruit trees
Total Area Arable Land Ha % to arable land Total
2 571 587 55 034 9.4 235 654 115 439 45 589 41 998 14 357 13 258
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