Monday, 5 September 2022

Government Measures Rescued Hotels, Can They Rescue Croatian Farmers?

September the 5th, 2022 - Croatian Government measures rapidly introduced for those most negatively affected by the global coronavirus pandemic managed to see many hotels keep their heads above water throughout that unprecedented crisis. Croatian farmers are now seeking the same aid for the agriculture sector, battered by a severe drought.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Jadranka Dozan writes, due to the unprecedented drought and owing to the impact of energy prices on production costs, including the problem of lack of fodder, Croatian farmers are rightly fearful of an extremely uncertain autumn. Several counties across the nation have declared a natural disaster, and the agricultural sector is increasingly relying on the government's autumn aid package.

The board of directors of the Croatian Chamber of Agriculture (HPK) said after last week's session that it believes that the government will now help suffering Croatian farmers as it did with hotels and inns after the outbreak of the global coronavirus pandemic back in 2020.

''Without the powers that be stepping firmly in, long-term consequences are likely, not only for this part of the economy, but indirectly for others as well,'' warned Mladen Jakopovic, president of the HPK.

The Chamber had input calculations made in certain segments of production, and Jakopovic says that this will show the losses suffered by Croatian farmers and the rest of the domestic agriculture sector. Representatives of the Chamber recently presented some proposals to Minister Marija Vuckovic and Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic, from earlier advance payments of subsidies and cancellation of leases for agricultural land and the gradual abolition of blue diesel. On Friday, at the opening of Viroexpo in Virovitica, the Prime Minister said that the government will "take care that Croatian farmers and fishermen get a special place in the new package".

Croatian farmers say they've never experienced a drought like this one, and the same is true for other European farmers across the continent. Even in the United Kingdom, known for its relatively pleasant summers and plenty of rain, the situation has been bizarre. The very concerning data from the so-called dashboards of the European Drought Observatory also confirm that what we've experienced this year is unusual.

The drought hit the spring crops the hardest of all, and although the drop in yields also depends on the area's micro location, both corn and potato crops suffered the most, but barley, sunflower, and wheat also had significantly lower yields. The combination of drought and intermittent heat waves also caused the forced ripening of various fruits and vegetables. At the same time, the movement of gas prices, announcements of an imminent increase in the price of electricity and more expensive artificial fertiliser make this autumn's harvest uncertain, although the weather conditions are currently encouraging for the sowing of rapeseed, for example. The situation is no less burdensome in animal husbandry, either. All production cycles that take place within closed spaces are more exposed to rapidly rising energy prices.

Along with the weak corn crop, there is also the problem of corn silage, which "almost doesn't exist", according to the head of HPK. Some herders from Lika complained that they had already started their animals on consuming "winter food" in the middle of August. In some neighbouring countries, cattle have also started to be sold for these reasons. This is precisely why the recent drop in meat prices on European stock markets, especially beef, is attributed to this, but they could go up again with the winter months.

''There are expectations of weakening demand due to expensive energy and fears of recession, as well as the pressure of quantities from the Black Sea on prices and difficult logistics. Then we've got the problem of droughts acrpss Europe and Asia, not to mention the constant risk of a new escalation of the conflict in Ukraine,'' pointed out Robert Jurisic from the company S-Grain BI, which specialises in agricultural commodities.

Due to the high price of gas as a result of spiralling inflationary pressures, a number of fertiliser producers across Europe have announced they'll soon stop being made. (the Norwegian Yara, the German SKW Piesteritz and BASF, the Polish Azoty). The problem of energy products is being constantly and intensively dealt with within the European Commission (EC), which is now strongly considering the possibility of freezing prices. The government's package is expected sooner than usual, and whether Croatian farmers will be satisfied with their share of these billions will be known soon.

For more, make sure to check out our dedicated business and politics sections.

Monday, 22 August 2022

Drought Sees Minister Marija Vuckovic Announce Hefty Aid Packet

August the 22nd, 2022 - Croatian Agriculture Minister Marija Vuckovic has announced a very welcome 200 million kuna package of measures for the enfeebled agriculture sector, brought to its knees with worry over the ongoing drought.

As Morski writes, due to the severe drought, the Ministry of Agriculture has announced an extraordinary measure for farmers worth around 200 million kuna, as revealed by Minister Marija Vuckovic on Sunday in Zlatar Bistrica in Krapina-Zagorje County.

Due to the severe drought and extreme temperatures, Croatian farmers from up and down the country asked the aforementioned ministry for a moratorium to be placed on exports, and according to Minister Marija Vuckovic, a decision has already been made. It refers to a deviation from the rules related to obtaining support, that is, direct payment advances at the end of October and the beginning of November this year.

''Farmers can't fulfill all the requirements related to obtaining this advance and their reasons for wanting this are justified. When a natural disaster is declared, we can see that the counties have really begun to declare justified natural disasters due to significant damage from the drought. As such, they won't have to meet the requirements that are normally projected, and they will be able to receive support,'' explained Marija Vuckovic.

Within the framework of the wider rural development programme, the ministry also announced an extraordinary measure that will be worth around 200 million kuna in total.

''Such a measure was made possible primarily because of Russia's brutal, unjustified and unprovoked aggression against Ukraine. However, all farmers who feel an increase in costs and a decrease in income, and who apply good agro-environmental practices, as this is one of the basic conditions, will be able to use this measure, which will be worth up to 15 thousand euros for them as a flat-rate support,'' Vuckovic said, adding that the ministry will consider other ways to help farmers as well.

Minister Marija Vuckovic said that the Croatian Government is trying with all possible measures to reduce the impact of the crisis on Croatian residents and is trying to help enterprises, and said that they are currently working on a new autumn package.

When asked by a journalist whether there is a possibility that due to the drought Croatia will first satisfy its needs and then turn to exporting, Minister Marija Vuckovic replied that the minister is seriously considering all the demands being made by the nation's hard-hit farmers, but emphasises that the path to restricting traffic on the single European market is not a good one to take, as reported by HRT.

For more, make sure to check out our dedicated politics section.

Thursday, 14 July 2022

Government Adopts Aid Packages For Beekeepers And Livestock Farmers

ZAGREB, 14 July 2022 - The government on Thursday adopted a HRK 1.2 million (€160,000) aid programme for beekeepers to offset the damage caused by mass deaths of bee colonies this spring and a HRK 80 million (€10.6 m) emergency package to help dairy, pig and poultry farmers cope with increased feed and energy prices.

Mass deaths of bees occurred in Međimurje County, Bjelovar-Bilogora County and Virovitica-Podravina County this spring, causing a loss of nearly 2,000 bee colonies and jeopardising the pollination of agricultural crops, Agriculture Minister Marija Vučković said.

The aim of the programme is to compensate the beekeepers for the losses and ensure continued beekeeping. The beekeepers will be entitled to HRK 860 (€115) per colony.

The programme of emergency measures for dairy, pig and poultry farmers aims to ensure the continuation of primary production in these sectors and contribute to the security of supply of milk, pork, poultry and eggs. The aid will be allocated to micro, small and medium enterprises.

For more, check out our politics section.

 

Wednesday, 18 May 2022

Dairy Farmers Say Farm Gate Price Insufficient to Cover Production Costs

ZAGREB, 18 May 2022 - Milk producers on Wednesday reported about a meeting with the ministers of agriculture and finance, Marija Vučković and Zdravko Marić, at which they warned the ministers that the milk farm gate price was insufficient to cover production costs.

"The situation in the dairy sector is dramatic, if concrete action is not taken, we fear the sector will continue to collapse, dairy farms will continue to be closed, and the number of dairy cows will continue to fall, as will the quantity of milk produced," the Croatian Chamber of Agriculture (HGK) said in a statement.

Igor Rešetar of the HGK Dairy Sector Committee says the Agriculture Ministry had done a lot in the past three years but not enough since dairy farms had been affected by crises on the global food and energy markets as well as by problems caused by the war in Ukraine.

Dairy sector representatives said that the farm gate price of milk had increased by 28% since June 2021 but that they received information from primary producers on a daily basis saying that their production costs had increased by more than 300%.

The farm gate price of milk should be increased because crop husbandry costs, which are also rising, will in the autumn affect cattle breeding and milk production, they said.

Dairy farmers also called for increasing subsidies, reducing VAT on dairy products as well as investment costs, etc.

Recalling the government support to the sector so far, the Ministry of Agriculture said in a statement that the government would continue providing comprehensive solutions and called on stakeholders in the dairy supply chain to invest additional effort in order to maintain the current production level.

The ministry also noted that work was underway on the adoption of a programme for the development of the national dairy sector in the period until 2030 with strategic goals, priorities and measures designed to make the sector stronger and more competitive.

For more, make sure to check out our dedicated lifestyle section.

Wednesday, 30 March 2022

Lawmakers Happy With Ban on Pesticides Hazardous for Bees

ZAGREB, 30 March 2022 - Lawmakers on Wednesday welcomed a ban on the use of pesticides that are hazardous to bees during spring blossoming to avoid a repeat of the situation of June 2020 when millions of bees in Međimurje died.

"It turned out that that resulted partially due to the incorrect use of pesticides", state secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture Tugomir Majdak said during a debate in the Sabor on a bill on the sustainable use of pesticides. 

He added that beekeepers were compensated for the loss without noting the amount involved.

Majdak explained that anyone using products for protection during agricultural activities has to report what they are using to the Croatian Beekeepers Association or its local representatives.

Lawmakers pointed out that some pesticides were fake, while others warned of the problem of imported fruit and vegetables treated with banned pesticides.

Majdak: Croatia has more than 100,000 hectares with organically-grown products

Majdak explained that in Croatia more than 100,000 hectares, or 10% of total land registered in the Arcod System, is planted with organically-grown products and the aim is to increase that even further.

He added that Croatia is in the process of adopting an action plan for organically-grown products and that the use of sustainable pesticides and organic production is "our practice."

In light of the concern expressed by MPs given the negative effects of Russia's aggression on Ukraine and its impact on the food market as well as the drought, which could cause the need for additional pesticides to be used, Majdak said that the situation with crops is good and that a certain quantity of precipitation is expected, so there is no need for any additional effort regarding the protection of plants.

He confirmed that aerial spraying is banned while online sales of pesticides are not currently regulated by law.

For more, make sure to check out our lifestyle section.

Thursday, 3 March 2022

Vučković: EU Needs Emergency Measures Over Ukraine War And Increased Prices

ZAGREB, 3 March 2022 - Croatian Agriculture Minister Marija Vučković attended an extraordinary video meeting of EU agriculture ministers on Wednesday to discuss the potential impact of the conflict in Ukraine on the EU's agriculture and food sector.

Vučković expressed understanding of the situation in which Ukraine found itself, given Croatia's experience with the 1991-1995 Homeland War.

She mentioned the fundamental goals of the common agricultural policy, including ensuring a secure food supply at affordable prices and decent living conditions for rural communities across the EU.

Vučković said that monitoring the situation on the market was not enough anymore and that it was high time to activate emergency measures, considering increases in prices of energy and consequently of fertilizers, transport, livestock feed, and other related production costs.

"We have to be resolute and state clearly that, as European ministers responsible for ensuring sufficient food supplies for our populations, the security of the food systems is an absolute priority," the Croatian minister said.

The EU agriculture ministers called on the Commission to consider the use of all available tools and mechanisms within and outside the common agricultural policy to create conditions for a collective response to the current situation.

Agriculture Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowsk announced a series of steps and activities, including proposals for the activation of emergency market measures.

The ministers expressed solidarity with Ukraine and readiness to support it within and outside the EU humanitarian aid mechanisms.

For more, check out our politics section.

Thursday, 17 February 2022

Minister Says Croatia's Agricultural Output On Rise For Five Years

ZAGREB, 17 Feb 2022 - Croatia's agricultural production has not contracted, as data for the first 11 months of 2021 show that both exports and imports increased considerably, with exports increasing faster, Agriculture Minister Marija Vučković said in parliament on Thursday.

"According to estimates by the national statistical office, Croatia's agricultural output grew at a rate of 8.1% in 2021," said the minister, stressing that the production had been growing for the five past years.

She addressed parliament during the presentation of the government's agriculture strategy up to 2030.

In response to harsh criticism from opposition lawmakers about a deficit in the farm sector, Vučković said that such gap could not be narrowed "with a magic wand" and could be reduced only through investment in boosting competitiveness and productivity.

The plan is to increase agricultural production from HRK 20 billion to HRK 30 billion annually by 2030, which would imply average annual growth of between 4% and 4.5%.

Vučković recalled that the government's €640 million support package to cushion the impact of energy price rises includes a €33.3 million (HRK 250 million) set of measures to help farmers and fishermen deal with increased energy prices.

The HRK 250 million aid scheme includes HRK 200 million for farmers and HRK 50 million for fishermen and will cover 88,000 family farms and 2,000 fishermen.

For more, check out our politics section.

 

Thursday, 17 February 2022

Government's Agriculture Strategy Inapplicable To Croatia, Opposition Claims

ZAGREB, 17 Feb 2022 - The government's agriculture strategy up to 2030 resulted in a heated polemic in the Sabor on Thursday even prior to the official debate, with the opposition saying that it did not contain anything specific to Croatia and as such was inapplicable, yet the ruling HDZ commended the document.

The opposition called out the government for the agriculture policy, accusing it of not fulfilling the promises it made.

There was a list of your promises and what you would change, but what have you done? Božo Petrov (Bridge) asked, wanting to know what made the strategy specific to Croatia and adding that the government could well have given it to Zimbabwe.

The strategy is inapplicable to Croatian circumstances, Martina Vlašić Iljkić (Social Democratic Party) said.

Independent MP Marijana Petir in the HDZ group said that the strategy is an umbrella document that has been in waiting for 20 years.

The plan is to increase agricultural production to HRK 30 billion a year by 2030, productivity by 60%, and to provide stronger support to young farmers, to increase the number of pigs and cattle domestically bred, build 20 fruit and vegetable distribution centres, Petir went on to say.

Katarina Peović (Workers' Front) was interested to know how agricultural production could be increased from HRK 19 to 30 billion, adding that during Socialism, Croatia produced twice as much food as now.

Marijan Pavliček (Sovereiignists) noted that in the past 20 years Croatia's agriculture sector has been completely devastated and that the strategy is just another dead letter.

Ružica Vukovac (PZH) criticised the document, saying that it does not specify how to renew the cattle fund, nor is there any mention of how to limit subsidies or to regulate the market.

The document doesn't take into account Croatia's variety, from Istria via Dalmatia to Slavonia, MP Emil Daus (Istrian Democratic Party) said.

For more, check out our politics section.

Thursday, 10 February 2022

Agriculture Minister Talks Bluefin Tuna Farms After European Commission Letter of Notice

ZAGREB, 10 Feb 2022 - Farm Minister Marija Vučković said on Thursday the European Commission's call on Croatia to ensure an effective monitoring, control and inspection of bluefin tuna farms referred to audits from 2017-19 and that Croatia had since significantly improved its agriculture legislation.

"Croatia has two months to prepare a response. We'll see if the Commission will recognise all that we have done. I think we have done plenty," the minister told the press in Sveti Đurđ in Varaždin County.

As part of this month's infringements package, Croatia received a letter of formal notice after an audit and verification by the Commission "identified serious shortcomings in monitoring the transfer and caging operations of bluefin tuna."

"National authorities should ensure that data are cross-checked, accurate and validated, and should investigate potential non-compliance cases and take administrative or criminal measures against those responsible for infringing EU law," the Commission said, adding that Croatia "has not taken the necessary steps to address these deficiencies."

Croatia has two months to respond to the letter and take the necessary measures, the Commission said, adding, "In the absence of a satisfactory response, the Commission may decide to issue a reasoned opinion."

The press asked Vučković to comment on fisheries inspector Marko Pupić Bakrač's statement after the letter of notice, that she should resign or the prime minister should replace her.

The minister is meddling in the work of the inspectorate and telling us what to do, while documents on tuna imports in Croatia are being falsified, he said.

As reported by Slobodna Dalmacija daily, Pupić Bakrač said Croatian tuna farmers were being favored by being made to register tuna imported from Libya only after they exported it to Japan.

Meetings on that are held at the Agriculture Ministry, attended by a dozen ministry employees, and the minister, in agreement with farmers, tells inspectors how to act, he said, calling it abuse of office. He also warned about suspicious activities in the unloading of forage fish intended for tuna farms.

Vučković said Pupić Bakrač was "lying incredibly. He claims that I regularly met with farmers and fisheries inspectors to instruct them on how to conduct fisheries inspections. He's lying... I have never done it. Let him find one inspector or one farmer who will back him up."

She also said proceedings had been instigated against Pupić Bakrač at the Civil Service Tribunal "for violating regulations" and that this was not the first time.

For more, check out our politics section.

Monday, 7 February 2022

Croatian Agricultural Land Must be Offered to State Before Attempted Sale

February the 7th, 2022 - Croatian agricultural land must first be offered to the state at market price before being put up for private sale according to a new rule governing this process.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, nobody will be able to put Croatian agricultural land up for sale to a private party (or indeed anyone else) if they don't offer it to the state at the market price first.

Under a new set of rules, the state gets the right of first refusal when it comes to the sale of Croatian agricultural land, and the final proposal of this amendment to the Law went to be voted on by Parliament during a recently held session. The new Law stipulates that the owner of Croatian agricultural land cannot sell that land to another buyer below the price they asked for from the state, even if the competent Ministry rejects his offer, according to a report by Novi list.

The government has made significant changes to the Law to ensure that production is ensured on any available Croatian agricultural land, but it is probably an important motive for the state to be able to get the right of first refusal, although this is not explicitly stated in the government's proposal. The fact that at the beginning of next year the moratorium on the sale of agricultural land to foreigners or citizens of other European Union (EU) member states is due to expire.

In its explanation of all of the above, the government has stated that the right of first refusal of the state when it comes to Croatian agricultural land is "in the interest of protecting agricultural land as an item of special economic and ecological importance because agricultural land is defined by the Constitution as an item of special economic and ecological importance and [as such] has special protection."

Just how much these brand new provisions will prevent sales being carried out as they were before, and how much it will prevent sales entirely remains uncertain, because foreigners, and not only those from other EU member states, are already buying agricultural land in Croatia by using the ''loophole'' of establishing companies headquartered in Croatia in order to do so.

For more, check out our dedicated politics section.

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