Friday, 26 November 2021

Digitalising Agriculture Key to Increasing Productivity

ZAGREB, 26 Nov 2021 - Digitalisation is the key to increasing productivity in agriculture and the driver of developing domestic production, an analysis by the Smarter consulting company said on Friday, noting that digital technology can help farmers to work more precisely, efficiently and sustainably and increase productivity.

"In Croatia, less than 10% of farmers use digital systems to manage production. In developed countries that share is far higher - almost 40%...and about 30% use information technology and keep their records using digital tools," Smarter said in the analysis.

It recalled that in addition to EU funds, Croatia has the opportunity to invest in digitalisation through the NextGeneration EU instrument and the National Recovery and Resilience Programme, which has ensured about HRK 77 million for digital transformation in agriculture.

Of that amount, HRK 14 million is earmarked for the establishment of digital public services, HRK 50 million for smart agriculture and HRK 13 million for traceability, which can significantly contribute to the wider use of digital technology in agriculture.

Digitalisation can help Croatian producers to improve decision-making and increase ecological efficiency, which is a must based on the EU green deal.

Smarter recalled that the COVID pandemic has impacted the application of new technological solutions and a large number of farmers organised their own digital platforms to promote and sell their products. This, however, is insufficient as users do not have sufficient experience in using digital tools.

In Croatia, digitalisation is present in large companies and among young people who are continually introducing new technology and are achieving European results in yields and productivity. However, in Croatia, most farmers are older and are poorly educated and IT literate.

The best solution would be for all agricultural producers, regardless of their size, to use a national IT platform that would ensure the introduction of digital management of production that would be open to every farmer in addition to the existing commercial systems.

Such a platform would also enable the ministry to have insight into and plan and monitor production, while producers would be provided with the best practices in their sector.

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Saturday, 20 November 2021

Crop Company Wants to Invest 18 Million Euros into Croatia

November the 20th, 2021 - The agricultural technology Crop company published an ad on LinkedIn recently which they stated that they were on the hunt for land for the construction of the first high-tech greenhouse into which they plan to invest a massive 18 million euros, with the help of their Dutch partners, Dutch Greenhouses.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Marija Crnjak writes, the Crop company was founded last year by entrepreneurs from the digital business and public relations, Jan de Jong and Jerko Trogrlic, known to the public for the project of promoting digital nomads and the digital nomad permit (often wrongly referred to as a visa) in Croatia.

The goal with the Crop company is to implement the latest Dutch technology for greenhouses, which enables the efficient achievement of high quality production with hydroponic cultivation, for both the domestic market and for exports.

As early as last year, they pointed out in public that they already had many potential investors who had showed some significant interest, and then they considered several locations, but apparently none have worked out for them so far.

"There is a lot of unused land across Croatia, but it isn't easy to find land that meets all the criteria, as each location has positive and negative sides. Together with our Dutch partner, Dutch Greenhouses, and their agricultural investment fund, we plan to invest 18 million euros in a greenhouse that will cover six hectares, and use the latest Dutch technology, including lamps for winter cultivation,'' they stated.

They also stated some more specific requirements for their investment in land - they need flat land with a total area of ​​12 hectares, of which 6 hectares will be intended for the construction of greenhouses, and the rest for a solar power plant, but they also need good infrastructure related to energy supply. Since they plan to employ about 70 people there, it is desirable that it be located next to a settlement of at least 5,000 inhabitants.

They would like to see their first greenhouse in continental Croatia, ie in the Bjelovar-Bilogora, Virovitica-Podravina, Brod-Posavina, Osijek-Baranja, Vukovar-Srijem, Pozega-Slavonia or Sisak-Moslavina counties.

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Saturday, 16 October 2021

Strategy Envisages €7.5 Billion of Investments in Agriculture in Next 10 Years

ZAGREB, 16 Oct, 2021 - Agriculture and the energy industry are the two main sectors enabling each society and state to function normally, and therefore in the next decade, €7.5 billion will be invested in the agricultural sector, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said in Zagreb on Saturday.

Addressing an Agriculture Ministry event dedicated to promoting farming, fisheries and forestry, the Prime Minister said that his cabinet spared no effort to help agricultural producers, the food and timber industries and the fisheries.

The government has sent to the parliament a draft strategy on agriculture, and the document, which should be adopted this year, envisages investments in agriculture of some €7.5 billion in the next decade, which should help the Croatian agricultural sector to reach the target of HRK 30 billion (€4 billion) of annual production.

During the term of this government, over a score of state aid schemes have been designed and mostly implemented, and their value is estimated at €253 million, provided from the state budget, Plenković said, recalling prompt interventions to address market disruptions caused by the coronavirus crisis and natural disasters.

In the livestock sector, nine measures and schemes are being implemented in response to problems caused by the COVID-19 crisis, and HRK 450 million has been made available as part of the government's aid schemes, he said, adding that an HRK 163.5 million scheme is in the pipeline to help businesses affected by fodder price rises.

From 2016 to 2019, state grants amounted to HRK 11.1 billion, and in 2020, HRK 3.2 billion was disbursed as state aid, the PM said.

The Rural Development Programme has made HRK 22.8 billion available to beneficiaries, and of that amount 18 billion has been contracted, and 13.8 billion has been disbursed for investments in agriculture, the PM told the event.

The fisheries branch has been provided with HRK 2.3 billion in grants within the Operational Programme for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, and to date more than 1.2 billion has been disbursed.

Plenković went on to say that the government has increased outlays for investments in food safety and the National Recovery and Resilience Plan envisages the provision of infrastructure for a food bank and for participants in the food donation chain. This is one of the important reforms, worth HRK 32 million, he said.

Agriculture Minister Marija Vučković said that the aim of the strategy would be to increase the output in the agricultural sector to HRK 30 billion annually until 2030.

The implementation of the strategy will require €7.5 billion, and the government plans allocations for this purpose in the amount of five billion euros until 2027 through the multiannual financial framework, the National Recovery and Resilience Plan and the state budget, she explained.

(€1 = HRK 7.5)

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Tuesday, 5 October 2021

Osijek International Digital Agriculture Study is First in Whole Region

October the 5th, 2021 - The Osijek International Digital Agriculture study is set to put this often overlooked Eastern Croatian city into the spotlight as the first generation of students of this study begin enrolling.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Marta Duic writes, this year, the Faculty of Agrobiotechnical Sciences (FAZOS) and the Faculty of Electrical Engineering, Computing and Information Technologies (FERIT) in the City of Osijek are enrolling the first generation of students in the graduate university study of Digital Agriculture.

It is a study with the participation of professors and lecturers from abroad, classes will be held in English, and enrollment is possible until the 11th of October, 2021. There are 20 more places available, and in the first year, everyone will be exempt from tuition fees and will learn how to improve agricultural production in Croatia, but also in the world, in a unique study for future jobs.

According to Zdenko Loncaric, the vice dean for teaching and quality management of FAZOS, the study is for those who have completed agronomy, food technology, forestry, nutrition, biology, computer science, economics and other studies in these areas.

“By launching this study, Croatia has the opportunity to position itself as a centre of excellence for digital agriculture. It's significant that it opened in Slavonia, our most important agricultural region, with huge potential for further development, which, unfortunately, was underused due to huge levels of emigration. That said, I'm convinced that, thanks to the occupations and skills that can be acquired in this study, the negative demographic trend can slow down and place Slavonia back among the ranks of some of the most important food producers in the EU. The study is in English because it is primarily intended for students from abroad, but also because of the professors we have included in the programme. Although the coronavirus pandemic made internationalisation more difficult, a dozen professors from abroad have already been included in the study,'' Loncaric revealed when discussing the Osijek International Digital Agriculture study's foundations

The partner of the Digital Agriculture studio is the very well known and respected Agrivi, a Croatian technology company that will offer scholarships and provide jobs to the best of the first generation of students.

Matija Zulj, founder and director of Agrivi, explained that digitalisation can significantly increase the productivity of agricultural production, improve local self-sufficiency, increase farmers' earnings, and give consumers a completely transparent insight into the process of food production.

"In our company, we're constantly looking for experts with knowledge of digital agriculture, who will work not only on the digitalisation of agriculture in Croatia, but on projects of digital transformation with some of the largest global food producers," concluded Zulj.

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Saturday, 2 October 2021

New Digital Agriculture Programme Launched at Osijek University

ZAGREB, 2 Oct, 2021 - The Faculty of Agribiotechnical Sciences and Faculty of Electrical Engineering, Computing and Information Technologies in the eastern city of Osijek are enrolling the first class of students for the new Digital Agriculture programme, Večernji List newspaper says in its Saturday edition.

The programme will be taught in English and will include lecturers from abroad. Admissions to the academic year 2021/2022 are open until 11 October and there are still 20 vacancies left. All first-year students will be exempted from tuition fees.

"With this programme, Croatia has an opportunity to position itself as a centre of excellence for digital agriculture," Zdenko Lončarić, Vice-Dean of the Faculty of Agribiotechnical Sciences, was quoted as saying.

"It is important that a programme like this has opened in Slavonia, our most important agricultural region with huge potential for additional development which, unfortunately, has not been sufficiently tapped because of the mass-scale emigration of the population and loss of labour," he added.

Lončarić said he was confident that the new academic programme could slow the negative demographic trend and help Slavonia regain its place among the most important food producers in the EU. 

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Tuesday, 28 September 2021

Croatian Chamber of Agriculture Concerned Over Plans to Relocate Fairs From Central Zagreb

ZAGREB, 28 Sept, 2021 - The Croatian Chamber of Agriculture (HPK) on Tuesday requested a meeting with Mayor Tomislav Tomašević after the announcements that fairs and food festivals could be relocated from the centre of Zagreb caused concern among HPK members.

The HPK president Mladen Jakopović said in a press release that in recent years Zagreb residents have had an opportunity to buy home-made products and locally grown agricultural produce at various events organised in the main square Trg Bana Jelačića.

Lately, we have received information from the organisers of such events and from producers that the new city administration seems inclined to relocate those events to less attractive venues.

That's why the HPK would like to meet with Mayor Tomašević and his aides to discuss the matter and present their position on the short supply chains and the protection of domestic production, Jakopović said.

The HPK is willing to provide the City of Zagreb with all the necessary support to improve, in cooperation with farmers, the availability of locally grown agricultural products to all citizens of Zagreb, in compliance with the EU criteria and the criteria for the protection of urban space.

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Tuesday, 21 September 2021

Agriculture Minister Marija Vučković: Primary tobacco production has a future in Croatia

ZAGREB, 21 Sept, 2021 - Despite the big risks in the sector - shortage of labour force, age structure and health - primary tobacco production has a future in Croatia, Agriculture Minister Marija Vučković said on Tuesday at the 21st Tobacco Fields Day, held near Virovitica.

Minister Vučković said that tobacco production is valuable and that in Croatia it has its organisers, relatively secure purchase, the possibility of processing and a closed cycle to the production of almost finished products, which any country would support.

Besides income support, we will endeavour to support all investment initiatives through the rural development programme, said Vučković. She added that the government and ministry advocate retaining support at all levels in the European Union, specifying that an envelope valued at HRK 42 million is envisaged for the tobacco sector, the same as last year.

The Hrvatski Duhani company, which organised Tobacco Fields Day, has 360 producers in Podravina and Slavonia who cultivate 2,700 hectares of tobacco land.

The total annual value of buying tobacco amounts to about HRK 90 million and tobacco is one of the rare agricultural cultures with which Croatia has high competitiveness and a significant production at the EU level, given that Croatia produces about 5% of the EU's total tobacco production.

President of the management board at Hrvatski Duhani Imad Ud-Din Muhammad said that the company was one of the first to introduce sustainability in agriculture in Croatia, which has now been strengthened at the BAT Group level.

We are additionally strengthening investments in environmental protection, health and safety within the entire supply chain, he underscored.

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Tuesday, 21 September 2021

Agriculture Minister Marija Vučković: Mandarin is Important For Croatian Fruit Farming

ZAGREB, 21 Sept, 2021 - Agriculture Minister Marija Vučković has called on fruit and vegetable producers in the Neretva river valley of southern Croatia to form an association in order to increase their competitiveness and presence on the market, her ministry said in a press release on Tuesday.

Vučković met with fruit and vegetable purchasers in the Neretva valley on Monday to discuss wholesale purchases of mandarin oranges this year. The main topic discussed was compliance with the law prohibiting unfair trading practices in the food supply chain.

Producers and purchasers were called upon to agree details of their business relationship to make this business sustainable and ensure that neither party feels deprived of any of their rights.

Vučković noted that the mandarin is very important for the Croatian fruit-growing industry and that its entire production takes place in a relatively small part of the Neretva valley. She said that in the last two years the government had set aside HRK 26 million for mandarin growers alone.

Citing figures from the Croatian Bureau of Statistics, the ministry said that 45,245 tonnes of mandarins had been produced in 2010-2020 in the area covering 1,984 hectares, with an average annual yield of 23 t/ha. Last year alone, 24.5 million kilograms of mandarin, worth €11.6 million, was exported, while 5.4 million kilograms, worth €4.3 million, was imported.

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Tuesday, 14 September 2021

Croatian Agriculture Minister, Chinese Ambassador Discuss Pork Exports to China

ZAGREB, 14 Sept, 2021 - Croatian Agriculture Minister Marija Vučković has held an online meeting with Chinese Ambassador Xu Erwen to discuss ways of speeding up the procedure to obtain veterinary certificates and possibilities for pork exports to China, the Agriculture Ministry said in a statement on Tuesday.

The agricultural cooperation with China has intensified since 2006, and thanks to the China+17 initiative and the efforts by the Agriculture Ministry, the protocol on veterinary and public health requirements for dairy products intended for export from Croatia to China was signed in 2019, removing the obstacles to the sale of Croatian dairy products on the Chinese market.

Vučković mentioned Croatian requests towards the Chinese competent authority (GACC) regarding veterinary certificates for pork and pork products, fresh and frozen tuna, honey, beef and poultry, notably the export of tuna, pork and pork products from Croatia to China.

The Croatian ministry is in close communication with the GACC and Croatia is a step closer to getting a positive assessment as a country allowed to export pork and pork products to China, the statement said.

In 2020 the GACC was notified that the World Organisation for Animal Health had recognised Croatia as a country officially free of classic swine fever.

Between 2011 and 2020, with Croatia's entry into the European Union, Croatian agricultural and food exports to China increased ninefold, while at the same time imports from China decreased by more than double. In 2020 alone, the value of agricultural and food exports to China increased by 52% compared with 2019, to nearly €7 million.

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Friday, 10 September 2021

HPK: Livestock and Milk Production Sectors Face Collapse Without Speedy Measures

ZAGREB, 10 Sept 2021 - The Croatian Chamber of Agriculture (HPK) said on Friday that without concrete and swift measures from the government livestock and milk production would collapse. 

The HPK announced that next week it would again organise meetings of all six committees relating to the livestock sector to examine the situation and propose urgent measures to prevent a collapse of livestock and milk production.

This year has been extremely hard for livestock farmers, whose position on the national and common market is currently affected by the adverse impact of the COVID-19 crisis, the HPK said.

"This year has seen a dramatic rise in prices of raw materials on the global market, including in Croatia. Livestock farmers have seen their costs rapidly increasing since the start of the year, while at the same time they have been selling their products below the asking price because on the common market commodities are offered at dumping prices because of surpluses caused by the COVID-19 crisis," HPK president Mladen Jakopović said.

He added that the structural problems in the national livestock sector and the sharp rise in input prices were compounded by a drought and, in some areas of the country, by the consequences of last year's earthquakes.

A study by the Osijek Faculty of Agrobiotechnical Science has shown that input prices, notably the cost of animal feed, had accounted for about 50% of material costs before their jump in 2021, while currently they exceed 70% in certain sectors. This has resulted in higher prices of cereals, processed cereals and animal feed as well as in losses to the livestock sector.

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