Friday, 19 February 2021

Croatian Agriculture Has Shown Resilience, Says Minister

ZAGREB, 19 February, 2021 - Agriculture Minister Marija Vučković was visiting Vukovar-Srijem County on Friday, where she presented contracts on the co-financing of projects from the Rural Development Programme and said that Croatian agriculture has shown resilience.

Citing Croatian Bureau of Statistics estimates, she said in Vukovar that agricultural production grew by 7% or HRK 1.4 billion in 2020, the highest increase since 2008, while gross added value and factor and entrepreneurial incomes increased between 14 and 16%.

Those figures show that Croatian agriculture is not on a bad path, that domestic producers are resilient and creative, and that the Rural Development Programme is showing results, the minister said.

"We have to insist on economic programmes for farmland, on connecting everyone in the food production chain and on boosting the processing industry, which will then best stimulate primary agricultural production," Vučković said.

Without increasing productivity and competitiveness, Slavonia cannot become stronger, she said.

Speaking of a farmland bill, the minister said the government wished to debate it with everyone concerned. As our most valuable resource, farmland is worth much more than all the incentives we will receive from the EU, she added.

Responding to questions from the press, Vučković said the government and her ministry had done their best to boost the sugar industry in Croatia.

Tuesday, 5 May 2020

Agriculture Ministry Launches Tržnica.hr Platform

ZAGREB, May 5, 2020 - The Croatian Agriculture Ministry has launched an online web platform, Tržnica.hr, which offers farm produce from all over the country, the ministry said on Monday, noting that currently 550 farm producers offer their products via the platform.

The platform has been launched to help farmers and fishermen in the current situation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The platform enables the purchase and sale of domestic produce from all over the country.

Currently buyers can choose between 11 product categories and the number of products on offer is expanded by the day.

Public buyers will be using the platform to find suppliers and announce tenders for the purchase of domestic, fresh and quality food with a short supply chain.

"Even though it has been prompted by the crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Tržnica.hr is continuation of the process of digitisation of the farming sector," said Agriculture Minister Marija Vučković.

She said the purpose of the online market was to provide citizens with simple and fast access to domestic, fresh and quality products and provide producers with an efficient platform to present and sell their products.

Encouraging domestic production and marketing domestic food products constitutes an important guideline of the national farm strategy that is in the final stage of preparation and will soon be put to public consultation, Vučković said.

More agriculture news can be found in the Business section.

Wednesday, 29 April 2020

Government Wants to Boost Food Production and Employment in Rural Areas

ZAGREB, April 29, 2020 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said in Osijek on Tuesday that the government had adopted a series of quality measures and laws to help the agricultural sector, stressing that the objective is to boost the production of quality food, achieve a decent life and increase employment in rural areas.

"In this term in office, we have adopted a string of quality legal solutions, we had a significant budget framework for agriculture, we have implemented quality measures and incentives for farmers, we have absorbed European funds in the context of a debate on a new joint budgetary policy, also as a country that is presiding over the European Union," Plenković said after a meeting held at the Osijek Faculty of Agriculture on the topic of farming activities.

The meeting with members of the local government, the academic community and business people was used to exchange opinions about what the government was doing to help the farming sector.

Gov't wants National Agriculture and Rural Development Strategy to be completed as soon as possible

The government wants to have the National Agriculture and Rural Development Strategy completed as soon as possible, Plenković said.

The future strategy should be conducive to the accomplishment of the four goals: enhancing the productivity and making the agricultural production resilient to climate change, boosting the competitiveness of the national agricultural and food producing system, revitalising the economy and improving the living conditions in rural areas, and encouraging innovations in the farm sector.

Plenković said the academic community and experts must play a special role in that.

Aside from Plenković, Agriculture Minister Marija Vučković and Regional Development and EU Funds Minister Marko Pavić, the working meeting in Osijek was also attended by executives of companies whose core business is farming production, representatives of the local university, officials of the City of Osijek, The Osijek Agriculture Institute, associations of pig farmers, cattle breeders, fruit growers and other stakeholders in the farm sector and food production.

County Prefect Ivan Anušić thanked the government for the support to projects implemented by Osijek Baranja County and Slavonia.

More election campaign news can be found in the Politics section.

Sunday, 26 April 2020

Ministry: Not True Croatia Will Have to Pay Back Billions for Organic Farming

ZAGREB, April 26, 2020 - The Croatian Agriculture Ministry on Saturday dismissed media reports that Croatia will have to pay back HRK 3 billion (€400m) to the European Union because inspectors from Brussels have found that only two percent of grants made available for organic farming are justified.

The ministry stresses that the two assertions are unverified and entirely incorrect.

"Since 2015, €128.3 million has been made available to Croatia for organic farming through the Rural Development Programme 2014-2020, or one billion kuna in total for the seven-year period, of which 15% are funds from the state budget and the rest are funds from the European Rural Development Fund. Since then, the interest of farmers in high-quality food production... has increased significantly," the ministry recalls.

Due to the significant increase in organic farming areas and demand in organic farming grants, the funds made available in the said programming period became insufficient, which prompted the Agriculture Ministry in November 2019 to ask the European Commission to increase the financial allocation for organic farming, the ministry recalls.

A review of grants for perennial organic crops was made at the time and based on an expert analysis, grants were proposed for walnut and hazelnut plantations, the ministry says.

It recalls in that context that back in 2015, it adopted rules on a single grant of €723 per hectare for organic fruit farming, which exceeded grants proposed by experts for individual types of fruit.

It is rather evident that the significant increase in areas covered in nut plantations is due to the increased grant, the ministry says.

"Reports that there is a danger that HRK 3 billion will have to be paid back are entirely incorrect as is the claim that 98% of organic farming in Croatia is fake, and that claim is also very unfair towards organic farmers," the ministry says.

It admits that there are irregularities regarding farming grants, but notes that it has been identifying and penalising such cases through regular checks and inspections on the ground, which has helped reduce their number.

The ministry notes that checks on the ground have established that in 2017 and 2018, 283 hectares of walnut and hazelnut plantations were not eligible for organic farming grants due to overgrowth or other reasons, which helped prevent a negative financial effect on the state budget in the amount of HRK 2.3 million.

It says that most Croatian farmers work hard and that it has been working to help them, with EU grants as well as budget funds, to earn a sustainable income and stay in their rural communities.

More agriculture news can be found in the Business section.

Sunday, 12 April 2020

Food Prices Influenced by Demand and Economic Downturn

ZAGREB, April 12, 2020 - Global economy is slowing down, causing a drastic fall in prices of food on the global market, however, the trend has still not emerged on the Croatian market, shows an analysis by the Smarter consulting firm on the impact of the corona crisis on food price trends.

Nevertheless, the analysis shows that consumers in Croatia are starting to spend more rationally, fearing for their household budget after an initial increase in demand caused by fear of shortages.

Smarter notes that the latest data from the Market Information System in Agriculture (TISUP), which monitors price developments on a weekly basis, show that, compared to March 2019, prices for some categories of meat, especially pork, were up by around 10%.

Considerable price fluctuations were also registered in some fruit and vegetable categories - from around 10% for lettuce to around 40% for green onions, the analysis shows.

Smarter consultants believe that the stabilisation of prices was influenced by a government decision to limit price increases for certain foods, adopted at the start of the corona crisis. They emphasise that the measure was the trigger which prevented drastic price increases due to increased consumption, as a result of the fear of shortages.

"We estimate that, after the drastic increase in demand due to the fear of isolation, stock-piling and panic buying, the situation has stabilised," Smarter notes.

Influenced by the crisis which has already resulted in layoffs and closure of restaurants, hotels, and coffee shops, and having to stay home, consumers fear for their household budget and are spending more rationally. In other words, they worry if they will have enough money for the post-corona period, analysts note.

The analysis shows that the crisis caused by the coronavirus epidemic has led to new trends in supply.

"Due to the measures introduced, there has been an explosion of online purchases and deliveries of fruit, vegetables, and other foodstuffs," Smarter says, noting that various drive-in markets, support groups, and Facebook groups are offering products delivered to the consumer's doorstep.

Although this type of selling is modern and is working at the moment, because consumers are shut in at home due to the epidemic, Smarter thinks that this is a short-term solution which makes goods more available to consumers and enables domestic producers to sell their goods, as they cannot sell it on farmers' markets due to the current restrictions.

Most consumers, especially older persons, still prefer buying from the shelves in retail chains, say Smarter analysts, who also think that retailers should pay attention to the safety of goods they are offering.

Smarter estimates that Croatian consumers will soon feel a financial strain, as economic activities have slowed down or halted completely, which consequently leads to layoffs, pay reductions, delays in payment of goods and services, etc.

That is why it is important to act right away, so that goods, and especially such goods as fruit and vegetables, are purchased and placed on the market via safe and verified supply chains, experts at Smarter think.

They also think that an about-turn is necessary in agricultural policies to make them focus on higher production business models, raising the level of self-sufficiency, producers' forming associations, and on establishing purchase centres where larger quantities of goods can be gathered and sent to consumers.

Smarter is a consulting firm specialising in the agricultural and food sectors.

More economy news can be found in the Business section.

Monday, 6 April 2020

Decision to Reopen Farmers' Markets Possible on Tuesday

ZAGREB, April 6, 2020 - Interior Minister Davor Božinović said on Monday the national civil protection authority could adopt a decision to reopen farmers' markets tomorrow.

"Meetings are under way with local civil protection authorities and associations of towns and municipalities, and when we see which measures have been taken, the decision to open farmers' markets will be made public. I expect it could be already tomorrow," Božinović said, presenting to MPs four bills which extend the validity of identity cards, driver's licences, firearms licences and passports.

Responding to questions from MPs, he said 520,000 e-passes to leave one's place of residence had been issued, and that the linear rise in the number of COVID-19 patients showed that the situation was under control.

Franko Vidović of the opposition Social Democratic Party (SDP) asked why some measures against the disease had not been introduced sooner if the government had a meeting on the novel coronavirus as early as January 9.

"The government and the prime minister were among the first to detect that something was happening in China and then, as well as now, too many things were unknown to say whether it would come to Europe. But the fact is that it was discussed and that this epidemic didn't surprise us as some other states," said Božinović.

Hrvoje Zekanović of the opposition Hrast asked if the plan to track citizens by mobile phone would be scrapped.

Božinović said every option was being considered to reduce the spread of the contagion. "The methods that are being applied can also give results, but everything will depend on how the epidemic develops."

Davor Vlaović of the opposition Peasant Party asked about hunters. The minister said epidemiologists advised against hunting.

Božinović thanked all volunteers helping citizens during the current crisis, including football supporters.

A majority of parliamentary groups endorsed the four bills which extend the validity of personal documents, but the SDP regarded them pointless.

"These bills serve to blow smoke in people's eyes. What's the point of being able to leave the country if you can't return?" said MP Ranko Ostojić.

More coronavirus news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Thursday, 2 April 2020

Farm Minister Announces Buying up 500,000 Litres of Milk

ZAGREB, April 2, 2020 - Agriculture Minister Marija Vučković on Thursday announced that the ministry was planning to intervene and buy up 500,000 litres of milk in an effort to help small dairy farmers faced with problems in doing business due to the coronavirus epidemic.

This extraordinary measure refers to buying up milk from 28 small dairy farms that produce 14 million litres of milk a year.

Due to the difficulties to approach farmers' markets and inability to sell their milk in specialised closed shops, a surplus of milk has accumulated, storage facilities are full and this could lead to a suspension in buying up milk from small farms, Vučković explained ahead of a cabinet meeting.

Current forecasts show that the surplus could amount to two million litres by May 10.

"We believe that there will not be that much but we have reserved and foreseen the first quantity of that surplus of 500,000 litres which we will buy out and donate to the authorised mediators in food supply chain" Vučković explained.

Asked whether the ministry planned interventionary measures to buy up surplus fruit and vegetables, Vučković said that currently the measure to assist these farmers is being implemented through cooperation with retail chains.

"We will try to establish an online market and in the end if the market cannot be able to function due the situation, it is up to the government to try and find a solution for any possible surplus and to maintain production" Vučković said, adding that she believes this will be successful.

More agriculture news can be found in the Business section.

Monday, 23 March 2020

HPK Asks for Allowing Sale of Agricultural Products at Farmers' Markets

ZAGREB, March 23, 2020 - The Croatian Chamber of Agriculture (HPK) on Monday called on the Ministry of the Interior and the Civil Protection Authority to allow agricultural producers to sell their produce at farmers' markets.

In a letter to the two institutions, the HPK said that the latest decision to close down farmers' markets was "an attack on domestic producers and family farms because they are being prevented from selling domestic produce, for which we know where it comes from and that there is no presence of the virus."

On the other hand, "goods for which we do not know where they come from are being sold in retail chains," it said.

The HPK stressed that certain gatherings that had occurred at farmers' market were not due to the sale of agricultural products but due to small shops that are part of farmers' markets.

"We ask that the sale of agricultural products from family farms be allowed at outdoor and semi-enclosed markets, just as it is in retail chains and pharmacies, on the condition the prescribed rules, such as social distance and sellers wearing protective masks and gloves, are complied with," the HPK said.

Under a decision by the national civil protection authority, designed to help prevent the spreading of coronavirus, as of Monday, all farmers' markets will be closed.

More coronavirus news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Wednesday, 11 March 2020

Electronic Agricultural Card ePI to Be Introduced for Farmers

ZAGREB, March 11, 2020 - Every farmer in Croatia can apply for an ePI electronic agricultural card, an official document issued by the Ministry of Agriculture to take farmers into the digital era and future online services, the ministry said on Wednesday.

The card will enable farmers to conduct administrative procedures simply and quickly from home.

The ePI will replace all existing cards that farmers have used until now.

One of the advantages of the new card is that it enables applications for support in the AGRONET system to be conducted online, which will relieve the administration system of the Agency for Payments and cut the time required to process applications.

The first issue of ePI cards will be free of charge, the ministry noted.

The ePI can also be used to access the e-citizens system and the services it provides such as applications for birth certificates, pension applications, health insurance applications and tax returns etc.

"The e-agriculture card is a step toward introducing farmers to the digital era and future online services. The card offers several benefits and has a high level of security, one of the most advanced on the market," Agriculture Minister Marija Vučković underscored.

The ministry recalled that along with the introduction of the ePI, it is working on new systems.

The Farmers' Register will connect the ministry, the Agency for Payments and the Croatian Agency for Agriculture and Food, which will improve the exchange of information and facilitate procedures for farmers, while the Agriculture Reports Management System will create the basis for analyses, controls and reporting as well as providing a single overview of farms and farmers in Croatia.

The GeoPortal of farm system is a one-stop site where farmers and the interested public can view physical data and information regarding agriculture that is organised based on theme areas, the ministry said in its press release.

More agriculture news can be found in the Business section.

Thursday, 30 January 2020

Croatia Partner Country of Italy's Fieragricola Agricultural Fair

ZAGREB, January 30, 2020 - Croatia is the partner country of this year's Fieragricola, Italy's largest agricultural fair, which is taking place in Verona from January 29 to February 1.

Agriculture Minister Marija Vučković attended the opening ceremony on Wednesday on behalf of the Agriculture Ministry as the partner institution.

Vuckovic participated in a panel entitled "Agribusiness in Africa and trade relations with the EU and Italy: Opportunities and prospects", and had a bilateral meeting with her Italian counterpart Teresa Bellanova, with whom she discussed ways of advancing Croatian-Italian trade relations, the Agriculture Ministry said in a statement.

In the context of the Croatian presidency of the Council of the EU, the State Secretary at the Agriculture Ministry, Zdravko Tušek, presented the main characteristics of the Croatian agricultural sector to potential business partners and representatives of the Italian media and the priorities of the Croatian EU presidency in the area of agriculture.

Italy is among Croatia's most important trading partners. Since 2002 it has been among the top three countries for Croatian exports. Agricultural products accounted for 15.52 percent of all exports to Italy in 2018 and for 16.16 percent in 2019.

Last year Fieragricola confirmed its status as the most important European agricultural show, attracting 130,000 visitors, of whom more than 15 percent were business people from abroad.

More agriculture news can be found in the Business section.

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