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North Macedonia

Agriculture and Horticulture Macedonia

Agriculture and horticulture in numbers


Agriculture accounts for only a small part of gross domestic production (GDP) in Europe, and it is considered that the overall vulnerability of the European economy to changes that affect agriculture is low (2). However, agriculture is much more important in terms of area occupied (farmland and forest land cover approximately 90 % of the EU's land surface), and rural population and income (3).


Land use for agriculture in the form of cropland and pastures is substantial in Macedonia and occupies approximately 50% of the surface area of the country, with forests constituting another 37% (10).

The total agricultural cultivable area in 2005 covered 546,000 hectares, out of which 82% were arable land and gardens. Pastures cover 682,000 hectares. The agricultural sector is prioritized as one of the most important sectors of the Macedonian economy due to its importance for social security and poverty reduction (1). It provides sustenance to the absolute majority of the population and accounts for 9.7% of GDP in 2009 (18). Agriculture and natural resource-based rural economies are particularly vulnerable to various anthropogenic stressors, including climatic hazards, variability, and a long-term climate change. 14% of the total working population is engaged in agriculture and 43% of the population lives in rural areas (1).

The vast majority of cropland in the country is rain-fed, with an estimated area of irrigated cropland of less than 10% (11). Cereals are the most important crop group: in 2009 they covered 37% of the total arable agricultural area. The predominant cereal is wheat, followed by barley and maize, with small areas of rye and rice (18,10).

While field crops like wheat, barley and maize are grown extensively and occupy a large percentage of total cropland. However, their contribution by value is significantly less than the contribution made by grapes, tobacco and the combined value of various fruits and vegetables, which garner a higher price (13).

In 2009, livestock production contributed 30.9% of the total value of national agricultural production (18).

Vulnerabilities Macedonia

The analysis results show that all necessary parameters needed for proper agricultural production head towards the direction of creating an adverse impact on agricultural production. The most important factors that cause constraints in agricultural production are water deficit, aridity, and emergence of a period of drought, i.e. increase of regions with an arid climate. Climate change will have a negative impact in almost all important agricultural regions, but the largest changes are expected in central and southeastern parts of the country. Vulnerable sub-sectors are: crop production, soils, and animal production (1). The downside risks for the agricultural sector of Macedonia outweigh any potential benefits (14).

The following crops were defined as vulnerable crops (1):

  • Vines/grape as the most important crop in Povardarie Region;
  • Tomatoes as the most important vegetable crop in a predominantly vegetable growing agriculture in the south-eastern part of the country (Gevgelija – Strumica);
  • Winter wheat as the most important cereal in Skopje – Kumanovo and Ovce Pole region;
  • Apples in the Prespa/Ohrid region, especially Resen;
  • Alfalfa as a crop with a very high water demand and huge importance in the livestock sector that is vulnerable in all agricultural regions of the country, especially for the Bitola region.
  • Under the assumption that crops would be planted without irrigation, already in 2025 a yield decrease for vulnerable areas and crops as a result of climate change of several tens of % is expected, depending on crop type.

Decrease of winter wheat will result in reduced food security, since it is the essential crop for food supply in the country. Decrease of grape production will affect not only farmers, but also the wine-producing industry that is in rapid development in the country. Decrease of alfalfa production will mean the decrease of livestock production and increased deficit in animal products (milk, meat, etc.) with a further negative impact on food security in the country (1).

For rain-fed wheat, the major growing areas in the continental and Mediterranean agro-ecological zones are projected to experience a moderate increase in yields of up to 10% for both 2025 and 2050. For rain-fed maize, moderate (0-10%) and severe yield declines (10-25%) are projected for the majority of Macedonia by 2025 and almost all of Macedonia is projected to experience severe maize yield declines of up to 25% by 2050, with some highly vulnerable areas projecting catastrophic yield declines of greater than 25%. As maize is a summer crop, these declining yield projections can also be used, to some extent, as a proxy indicator for other rain-fed summer crops, like vegetables (15).

Adaptation deficit

With a considerable proportion of the rural population dependent on agriculture for their livelihood, rural communities are particularly vulnerable to risks posed by changes that may occur as a result of climate change (11). This risk is further intensified by Macedonia’s relatively low productivity associated with a lack of adaptive capacity to the present climate, also known as “the adaptation deficit”. This deficit refers to underperformance caused by a complex set of factors, including distortions and imperfections in agricultural output and input markets; poor quality public services in areas like agricultural education, extension, research and market information systems; delays in farm restructuring; undeveloped agricultural land markets; lack of access to finance; unsustainable management of soils; insufficient irrigation; and high vulnerability to natural hazards like droughts, floods, frosts, and severe storms (12).

The most significant impacts agriculture has on the Macedonian environment are associated with soil degradation; water-logging and salinization as a result of unsustainable agricultural practices and land use; poor water management; biodiversity degradation; soil erosion. All of these issues increase the vulnerability of agricultural systems and rural livelihoods to external shocks such as climate change (10).

Vulnerabilities Europe - Climate change not main driver

Socio-economic factors and technological developments

Climate change is only one driver among many that will shape agriculture and rural areas in future decades. Socio-economic factors and technological developments will need to be considered alongside agro-climatic changes to determine future trends in the sector (3).

From research it was concluded that socio-economic assumptions have a much greater effect on the scenario results of future changes in agricultural production and land use then the climate scenarios (4).

The European population is expected to decline by about 8% over the period from 2000 to 2030 (5).

Scenarios on future changes in agriculture largely depend on assumptions about technological development for future agricultural land use in Europe (4). It has been estimated that changes in the productivity of food crops in Europe over the period 1961–1990 were strongest related to technology development and that effects of climate change were relatively small. For the period till 2080 an increase in crop productivity for Europe has been estimated between 25% and 163%, of which between 20% and 143% is due to technological development and 5-20% is due to climate change and CO2 fertilisation. The contribution of climate change just by itself is approximately a minor 1% (6).

Care should be taken, however, in drawing firm conclusions from the apparent lack of sensitivity of agricultural land use to climate change. At the regional scale there are winners and losers (in terms of yield changes), but these tend to cancel each other out when aggregated to the whole of Europe (4).

Future changes in land use

If technology continues to progress at current rates then the area of agricultural land would need to decline substantially. Such declines will not occur if there is a correspondingly large increase in the demand for agricultural goods, or if political decisions are taken either to reduce crop productivity through policies that encourage extensification or to accept widespread overproduction (4).

Cropland and grassland areas (for the production of food and fibre) may decline by as much as 50% of current areas for some scenarios. Such declines in production areas would result in large parts of Europe becoming surplus to the requirement of food and fibre production (4). Over the shorter term (up to 2030) changes in agricultural land area may be small (7).

Although it is difficult to anticipate how this land would be used in the future, it seems that continued urban expansion, recreational areas (such as for horse riding) and forest land use would all be likely to take up at least some of the surplus. Furthermore, whilst the substitution of food production by energy production was considered in these scenarios, surplus land would provide further opportunities for the cultivation of bioenergy crops (4).

Europe is a major producer of biodiesel, accounting for 90% of the total production worldwide (8). In the Biofuels Progress Report (9), it is estimated that in 2020, the total area of arable land required for biofuel production will be between 7.6 million and 18.3 million hectares, equivalent to approximately 8% and 19% respectively of total arable land in 2005.

The agricultural area of Europe has already diminished by about 13% in the 40 years since 1960 (4).

Adaptation strategies in Macedonia

As overall climate change is projected to have a negative impact in almost all important agricultural regions in the country, there exists a continued need to develop and implement adaptation options to increase the resilience of agricultural systems in Macedonia (1).


General adaptation options for the agricultural sector of Macedonia are (1):

  • Invest in research and extension services to enhance the capacity and delivery of information to the agriculture sector, with particular reference to climate change and the implementation of adaptation options;
  • Improve early warning and weather information systems, including frequent publication and distribution of agriculture-specific weather forecasts (e.g. short-term and seasonal forecasts, drought monitoring, etc...);
  • Invest in the monitoring and detection of new pests and disease for the crop, livestock and forestry sectors through improvements in the sanitary and photosanitary regimes;
  • Introduction of a weather-based crop insurance program.

According to the Work Bank, the following adaptation measures hold the greatest promise for Eastern European countries, independent of climate change scenarios (19):

  • Technology and management: Conservation tillage for maintaining moisture levels; reducing fossil fuel use from field operations, and reducing CO2 emissions from the soil; use of organic matter to protect field surfaces and help preserve moisture; diversification of crops to reduce vulnerability; adoption of drought‐, flood‐, heat‐, and pest resistant cultivars; modern planting and crop‐rotation practices; use of physical barriers to protect plants and soils from erosion and storm damage; integrated pest management (IPM), in conjunction with similarly knowledge‐based weed control strategies; capacity for knowledge based farming; improved grass and legume varieties for livestock; modern fire management techniques for forests.
  • Institutional change: Support for institutions offers countries win‐win opportunities for reducing vulnerability to climate risk and promoting development. Key institutions include: hydromet centers, advisory services, irrigation directorates, agricultural research services, veterinary institutions, producer associations, water‐user associations, agro processing facilities, and financial institutions.
  • Policy: Non‐distorting pricing for water and commodities; financial incentives to adopt technological innovations; access to modern inputs; reformed farm subsidies; risk insurance; tax incentives for private investments; modern land markets; and social safety nets.


At present only one quarter of the agricultural land is irrigated and this number is permanently decreasing. The best adaptation strategy for irrigated areas will be spreading of water-saving techniques in irrigated agriculture, in order to maintain the same or even increased irrigated areas with the same water amount. The best available practice will be increased irrigation efficiency through micro-irrigation (micro-irrigation, 90% efficiency; furrow irrigation, less than 50% efficiency; and sprinkler irrigation, less than 70% efficiency). The priority is to determine the real price of irrigation water and to raise awareness about the importance of water-saving techniques. Structural changes in water management and increased level of know-how of all participants in the sector should follow these measures (1).

Tthe options for adaptation in the domain of irrigation and water supply are (1,16):

  • Implementation of Vardar River watershed management;
  • Rehabilitation of existing irrigation and delivery schemes to improve access and system water-use efficiency;
  • Modernization of on-farm distribution systems;
  • Introduction of new irrigation techniques and improvement of existing techniques to enhance field-level water use efficiency;
  • Water pricing;
  • Credit facilities;
  • Insurance.

Rain-fed agriculture

The best available adaptation technology – irrigation – is hardly applicable in areas without irrigation schemes and infrastructure. Due to this, adaptation technologies should be oriented towards mitigation of the negative effects of drought and heat stress on crop development and yield. Adaptation measures for rain feed agriculture should be divided into six groups (1):

  • Genetic measures (new, more drought tolerant crops and varieties such as wheat, barley, sunflower, industrial crops, etc.);
  • Land reclamation measures (to increase soil water holding capacity – manure, organic matter increase, some polymers);
  • Agricultural practices (soil and water conservation soil cultivation – reduced tillage, water harvesting, mulching, etc.);
  • Irrigation – building of new irrigation schemes and rehabilitation of existing schemes;
  • Increased level of knowledge through education of farmers;
  • Increased public awareness for new adaptation techniques.

Soil erosion

Around 96.5% of the total area in the Republic of Macedonia is affected by the processes of soil erosion, and 36.65% of the total state territory is encompassed by stronger categories (I – III). Adaptation measures are needed to reduce soil erosion (1):

  • Afforestation of the sloping terrains;
  • Implementation in practice of new irrigation techniques which enable efficient use of water, eliminate the surface flow of water, especially important on sloping terrains, and decrease the water scarcity, part of which is a result of decreased rainfalls due to the climatic change;
  • Demonstration and increasing of the awareness of farmers on the management of the land, through changing the crop/vegetation cover, adequate cultivation (contour ploughing, reduced or no-tillage cultivation).


Tthe options for adaptation of livestock farming are (1,17):

  • The adoption of improved animal breeds and grass/legume seed stock with increased resilience to projected climate conditions;
  • Improved farmhouse micro-climate management through the use of thermal insulating construction materials and modern ventilation systems to protect livestock from extreme conditions and increase productivity;
  • Improved pasture management by matching stocking rates to pasture production and integrating pasture improvement to increase feed value.

Weather forecasts

The status of most weather services among Eastern European countries has deteriorated considerably in the last two decades, mainly as a consequence of persistent under‐financing during the arduous transition that followed the end of central planning and the break‐up of the Soviet Union. … The perils of a weakening forecast capacity have become evident in Russia’s system, where the share of hazardous weather phenomena that were not picked up and forecast increased from 6% at the beginning of 1990s to 23% only ten years later. … Increased accuracy in forecasting would assist in the timing of fertilizer application and pest and disease control, avoiding over‐application that raises input costs and exacerbates environmental damage. There is abundant evidence that farmers in Tajikistan, Montenegro, Uzbekistan, and Albania would benefit significantly from improved monitoring and forecasting. Forecasts also would enable mitigation of frost damage, which is a serious problem for agriculture in Ukraine, Turkmenistan, Montenegro, Moldova, Armenia, Macedonia, Kazakhstan, and Bosnia, among others. Tools to mitigate the effects of sudden freezes are being developed globally, but cost‐effective application depends on accurate forecasting (19).


The references below are cited in full in a separate map 'References'. Please click here if you are looking for the full references for Macedonia.

  1. Republic of Macedonia, Ministry of Environment and Physical planning (2008)
  2. EEA (2006), in: EEA, JRC and WHO (2008)
  3. EEA, JRC and WHO (2008)
  4. Rounsevell et al. (2005)
  5. UN (2004), in: Alcamo et al. (2007)
  6. Ewert et al. (2005), in: Alcamo et al. (2007)
  7. Van Meijl et al. (2006), in: Alcamo et al. (2007)
  8. JNCC (2007), in: Anderson (ed.) (2007)
  9. European Commission (2006), in: Anderson (ed.) (2007)
  10. World Bank (2010)
  11. World Bank (2009), in: World Bank (2010)
  12. Lampietti et al. (2009); Sutton et al. (2008), both in: World Bank (2010)
  13., in: World Bank (2010)
  14. Iglesias et al. (2007), in: World Bank (2010)
  15. World Bank Climate Change Knowledge Portal and Fischer (2007), in: World Bank (2010)
  16. Trigo et al. (2004), in: Eisenreich (2005)
  17. Iglesias et al. (2007), in: World Bank (2010)
  18. Lambevska (2011)
  19. World Bank Group (2009)