Friday, 14 October 2022

Drought Especially Tough on Croatian Sheep Farmers: Hardest Year in Last 30

October 14, 2022 - The drought created big problems for Croatian sheep farmers. The largest sheep farm in Krk produces five and a half tonnes of cheese annually. And while last year, despite the pandemic, was good for them, they are adding damage due to the drought this year.

As HRT writes, they do hope that the sheep will recover by the time they need to be milked and that they will persist in the quality of the cheese.

Both in summer and winter, about four hundred sheep of the Mrakovčić family roam freely in the pastures on the sunniest side of the island of Krk. They learned everything about sheep from their ancestors and founded their OPG and Sirana (family farm and cheese production) about thirty years ago. But due to the dry summer, this is their first year which they think could be critical.

"We normally do not add fodder or dry hay during the summer, but only during February and March when the vegetation is scarce. I don't remember having to add so much water and food," says Mirjenko Mrakovčić, owner of OPG from Kornić, Krk.

Typically, sheep consume a cubic meter of water daily and up to twelve hay bales." And you can see that the sheep are not in the best condition and have lost some weight. Well, you can't see it now because of the wool, but if you fleeced them, it would become apparent. They graze on grass, eat young olive leaves, blackberries, whatever they find, and laurel is the sweetest for them", said Marko.

Everyone hopes the sheep will have recovered by the time they need to be milked.

"We exclusively milk sheep who graze on vegetation; we do not add anything, which is why our milk and cheese are of high quality," emphasizes Mirjenko.

They are the eight-time champions of Croatia and the region. The flavours of their cheeses - Green and Black Bodul, Ordinary, and Magriž - are enjoyed on all continents. They even refined the offer on the doorstep with olive oil and sweet delicacies.

"One month is better; another is worse; we get some incentives from the county and some from European funds. We have had customers for about 20 years," pointed out Vesna Mrakovčić, owner of the OPG.

Their good results are spoiled by wild boars and jackals, killing about twenty sheep yearly.

"As far as I know, two farms are now selling sheep; there is no future if the wild boars and jackals are not removed from the island of Krk," emphasized Mirjenko.

The reality is these humble OPGs are just desperate to maintain the high quality of their products.

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

Friday, 25 February 2022

Croatian Ecological Agriculture Ranks 18th Place in European Union

February the 25th, 2022 - Croatian ecological agriculture has taken a rather unimpressive 8th place in the European Union (EU), leaving a lot of room for improvement in a sector that many now have their eyes on.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Jadranka Dozan writes, areas under organic agricultural production across the European Union (EU) are increasing from year to year, and although this trend is also being recorded here in this country, with a share of these areas in total utilised agricultural area account for (currently) ​​7.3 percent, Croatian ecological agriculture ranks at a mere 18 on the EU27 scale.

According to Eurostat, at the European Union level under organic production back in 2020, there were 14.7 million hectares or 9.1 percent of the total utilised agricultural area of the bloc.

For example, back in 2012 there were 9.5 million hectares in the function of organic production, which means that there has been a marked increase of 56 percent in just eight years, and the only EU member state in which this share has not increased at all is Poland.

By far the largest share of areas under organic production, of as much as a quarter of total agricultural in the EU has Austria, followed by Estonia (22 percent), Sweden (20 percent), Italy (16 percent) and the Czech Republic/Czechia (15 percent).

In contrast, the share is less than five percent in eight EU member states, including Bulgaria, Romania and Poland, but also Ireland and the Netherlands.

Here in Croatia, for example, back in 2013, the year in which the country joined the EU, there were 40.6 thousand hectares or 2.6 percent of the total utilised agricultural area under organic production, and back in 2020 more than 110,000 hectares compared to more than 1.5 million hectares of UKPP.

In the register of entities engaged in organic production back in 2013, there were less than 1800, and today that same register boasts 5565 such producers.

For more on Croatian ecological agriculture, check out our lifestyle section.

Wednesday, 8 December 2021

HRK 77m Earmarked From National Recovery Plan for Digitising Agriculture Sector

ZAGREB, 8 Dec, 2021 - The survival of Croatia's agriculture largely depends on digitisation, the key to increase productivity and the driver of the development of domestic production, for which HRK 77 million is envisaged for investments, a conference on digital farming heard on Wednesday.

Addressing the conference, Agriculture Minister Marija Vučković said that digital technology has the potential to significantly improve farming and that the digital transformation of Croatia's agriculture has been included in the National Recovery and Resilience Plan (NPOO). 

A total of HRK 77 million is earmarked in the NPOO for the digitisation of the agriculture sector - for digitising public services (HRK 14 million), for smart agriculture (HRK 50 million), and for launching the field-to-table project (HRK 13 million).

Vučković pointed out the ageing structure of family farms and that it is necessary to motivate young people to take over family farms. Digitisation can also compensate for the labour shortage in certain areas, she said.

"We will have the funds, and living in rural communities, with the help of investments in the local and entrepreneurial infrastructure, will be such that there will not be any gap between the quality of life in rural or urban communities," underscored Vučković.

The state-secretary in the ministry, Zdravko Tušek, said that digitisation will contribute to producing high-quality food at competitive prices, among other things.

Efficient agriculture and its competitiveness depend on digital solutions

The transformation and survival of rural communities depend on digital solutions, which already provide support and better efficiency, Danijel Koletić of the conference's organising committee said.

Smart villages are a new concept and it is necessary to educate and inform stakeholders so Croatia's agriculture can be more competitive in the future, he added.

Unfortunately, in Croatia there is not one university that offers a course in digital agriculture, he said.

It is necessary to educate all stakeholders in rural communities to start learning about digital farming because without that Croatia's agriculture cannot be competitive, Koletić added.

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Saturday, 7 August 2021

Additional 220 Million Kuna for Croatian Livestock Industry Approved

August the 7th, 2021 - A significant amount money for the Croatian livestock industry is set to flow in thanks to a recent decision made by the European Commission (EC) through various alterations to the Rural Development Programme.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, the Ministry of Agriculture reported that the European Commission (EC) has approved an additional 220 million kuna in aid for livestock farmers and the Croatian livestock industry, in addition to existing aid mechanisms. The industry has, much like the majority of other sectors, been hit by the ongoing pandemic, and this EC-approved cash sum hasn't come a moment too late.

“The European Commission has approved the final changes to the Rural Development Programme, which, after lengthy and successful negotiations with the EC, approved this additional aid to the livestock sector in the amount of an additional 130 million kuna through the Animal Welfare measure and an additional 90 million kuna for new support for the use of livestock manure on arable land,'' the aforementioned ministry said in a statement on the matter.

The ministry also recalled that in addition to implementing regular support measures, since the beginning of the ongoing global coronavirus pandemic, the ministry has adopted a number of support programmes which directly involve and include the Croatian livestock industry, worth almost 450 million kuna, as well as various support programmes for the poultry and dairy sectors.

In addition to the above, due to the increase in prices of cereals and other components of typical animal feed, at the last meeting of the Council of Ministers of Agriculture and Fisheries of European Union member states, Minister of Agriculture Marija Vuckovic called on the European Commission to examine all of the possibilities for granting financial support to stabilise the Croatian livestock sector and properly ensure the equal position of Croatia's manufacturers on the demanding global market.

For more on both Croatian and European Union (EU) politics, make sure to follow our dedicated politics section.

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.

Saturday, 19 December 2020

HBOR Loans Provided to Croatian Farmers with 0.5% Interest

As Zlatko Simic/Novac writes on the 18th of December, 2020, joint cooperation between the Ministry of Agriculture and HBOR in the middle of this year introduced a new financial instrument called ''Working capital for rural development" which provided favourable HBOR loans and funds for lending liquidity to Croatian farmers and processors of agricultural products, as well as entities operating in the forestry sector affected by the ongoing pandemic.

Business difficulties caused by the coronavirus epidemic are proven by one of the ten criteria, including reduced demand or the possibility of product placement, an increase in production costs or the inability to carry out agro-technical measures in a timely manner.

Working capital HBOR loans are approved directly at an interest rate of 0.5 percent, and loan users are exempt from all fees normally charged when approving loans.

Documentation needed for this HBOR loans

The loan amount can be from 190 thousand to 1.52 million kuna, the funds have been approved for a period of up to five years, including a grace period of up to 12 months.

Applications for these HBOR loans can be submitted by entities registered as family farms (OPG) in the VAT system, a trade (obrt) registered to perform an agricultural activity, a company or cooperative, including producer organisations. The documentation required for processing can also be submitted electronically, and the processing of loan applications is further simplified and accelerated.

HBOR loans can be used for working capital required for the smooth running of production and financing of current operations (the preparation of production, the purchase of raw materials, other production costs, labour costs, the settlement of trade payables and other general operating expenses).

These HBOR loans will also be available in 2021

Existing credit liabilities to commercial banks and other financial institutions cannot be settled with these funds.

The total amount of funds intended for these loans is 130 million kuna, and so far, HBOR loans in the amount of more than 70 million kuna have been approved. The funds will continue to be available during 2021, and interested beneficiaries can still apply for a loan that they can use, for example, to finance spring sowing or planting, production and processing.

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Tuesday, 1 December 2020

Has Coronavirus Crisis Pushed Digitisation, Croatian Agriculture Forward?

December the 1st, 2020 - Digitisation is a rather sore topic in Croatia, which is well known for its often draconian policies and bizarre, semi-masochistic love of paperwork, stamps and all things quite historic. Despite this, the coronavirus crisis has pushed Croatia deeply (and somewhat forcibly) more towards digitisation. Croatian agriculture has also benefited.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, after an extremely challenging 2020, which, in addition to economic uncertainty caused by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, also brought with it enormous pressure to maintain the continuity of everyday business processes, Agrivi expects that 2021 will bring stabilisation and, in general, a more favourable business environment. All serious estimates speak of a relatively rapid economic recovery for Croatia next year, and this is important to everyone as it indicates a more positive environment which is key to continued investment and all further development.

''As far as the technology sector and our company are concerned, 2020 wasn't a bad business for us. This crisis has further emphasised the need to digitise all types of business, including Croatian agriculture, and it has further opened some doors for us and accelerated the entire dynamic of our business development.

We've continued to expand in the key markets we cover with a network of offices in Zagreb, London, Bucharest and Warsaw, and we've secured a new round of financing, which will further accelerate the development of our platform as well as our market dynamics. Additionally, we've managed to break into the Middle Eastern market with a solution for the traceability of agricultural production that we believe has huge market potential. We have also strengthened our relationship with our major partners such as Driscoll’s, the world’s largest berry producer, Nestle, Helvetas and BNP Paribas Bank. We closed the startup phase, strengthened the management team and as such also strengthened our market position,'' they stated from Agrivi, well known for its numerous successes here on the Croatian agriculture scene and that of further afield.

''For next year, we're planning to further accelerate growth, which in recent years averaged 100 percent per year. In general, we believe that 2021 will be a record year for the technology sector, on a wave of greater interest from companies and the public sector around the world in investing in digital transformation. Such an environment can and should be used by us in Croatia, to which, specifically for the digitisation of Croatian agriculture, significant paths to EU funds are being opened up.

Given that digitisation in agriculture raises wages between 50 and 100 percent, thus significantly increasing the competitiveness and sustainability of production, this opportunity absolutely shouldn't be missed,'' they concluded from Agrivi.

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Sunday, 29 November 2020

Croatian Agricultural Production Grows to Almost 19 Billion Kuna

Despite the ongoing issues caused by the coronavirus pandemic, which dealt a heavy blow to numerous sectors such as imports and exports, Croatian agricultural production managed to see some growth.

As Morski writes, according to the first provisional estimates released by the Central Bureau of Statistics, Croatian agricultural production in 2020 increased by 4.7 percent when compared to the results garnered last year, rising from 17.9 billion kuna to an impressive 18.8 billion kuna.

On top of that, an increase in net value added and productivity of almost 10 percent was recorded.

''The data on the increase in net value which was added and productivity lead to the conclusion that this sort of growth could indeed become more sustainable. We do certainly need to wait for the final assessments to come in, and in recent years they have always been more positive than the first provisional assessments have been.

I'd like to thank all Croatian farmers and the agricultural processing industry for their will, efforts, investments, their suffering of disturbances and for their quiet but very, very well organised work, first, second and third shifts, procurement in very difficult conditions. We're all working together.

In the times ahead of us, we will know how to further encourage this type of transformation - by focusing on those who are the real ones [in this field] whether they're small or large, because in this way we can best protect the village, and we can also do the same with quick reactions to disturbances in accordance with the possibilities of the Croatian state budget.

What is equally important is that we will continue with our persistent work on the elimination of export barriers, obtaining veterinary certificates and proposing measures to the European Commission,'' said the Minister of Agriculture, Marija Vuckovic.

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Sunday, 26 July 2020

Croatian Agriculture Sector Has Potential - Time for a Turnaround?

As Novac writes on the 24th of July, 2020, due to the coronavirus crisis and a significant reduction in tourist consumption, the Croatian fruit and vegetable market has undergone major changes that affected supply and demand, price fluctuations have become dependent on supply and demand on the global market, and the availability of domestically produced goods is an issue. It's time for a turnaround for the Croatian agriculture sector.

''Due to climatic conditions, it is already evident that here in Croatia, there will be a decline in production of most leading fruit species (apple, mandarin, plum), while the market prices are generally slightly higher than they were last year. There were no extreme disturbances in the production of most vegetables, so it can be estimated that the yield will be approximately at the same levels as last year, while the market saw a drop in prices between 12 to 20 percent due to market conditions,'' said the leader of Smarter, a consulting company specialising in the agriculture and food industries, and the President of the Management Board of ENNA Fruit, Denis Matijevic.

Croatian agriculture needs a strong turnaround...

Food, in addition to needing to meet the basic food requirements, should be available to everyone and at affordable prices, and in order to achieve this, local farms need significant government incentives and support to increase production and diversity.

The coronavirus crisis has made us become more than aware of the need to make a strong turnaround in the Croatian agriculture sector and move towards the better organisation of production, associations and connections of producers.

Only the stronger interconnection of producers and their better relations with production organisers, purchasers and the processing and food industry is a guarantee for increasing competitiveness and the level of self-sufficiency of agricultural production. This will also open the door for better market organisation that will enable the availability of domestic goods on store shelves.

An example from practice, which shows that through vertical integration we can better organise the market, is the leading company for the organisation of the production, purchase, distribution and processing of fruits and vegetables in Croatia and the region - ENNA Fruit, which, through subcontracting, buys all contracted production, and then places it on domestic and foreign markets. Since the beginning of the year, it has exported 640 trucks of goods (which is more than half of the total Croatian exports).

"The main markets of ENNA Fruit in that period were Slovenia, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Italy. Exports are expected to increase at the end of the summer, so the first projections can tell us a lot about the additional growth of exports, especially when the mandarin season arrives, along with other items from Croatian agricultural production,'' said Denis Matijevic.

Expectations for Croatian agriculture in terms of fruit and vegetable production in 2020...

According to Smarter's first estimates, apple production is expected to fall to 55,000 tonnes this year due to frost. Insufficient precipitation and a lack of irrigation will cause lower mandarin production and a yield of about 30,000 tonnes is expected. Estimates for vegetables show the production of, for example, approximately 175,000 tons of potatoes, 33,000 tons of tomatoes, and about 25,000 tons of watermelon, which is at the level of last year.

"Croatian fruit and vegetable production has huge potential given the low level of self-sufficiency of production and the expected growth of consumption in the coming years, both through increased tourist consumption and through growth in per capita consumption. There is huge potential for exporting as well,'' said Smarter expert Zvjezdana Blazic.

In addition to large food companies, a large number of small processing companies present on the local market also participate in the purchase and processing of fruits and vegetables. The food industry in cooperation with production organisers can be a strong impetus for the development of fruit and vegetable production. Large systems such as Podravka, Enna Fruit, companies from the Fortenova Group (PIK Vinkovci, Belje, Vupik), in recent years have made enormous efforts to transfer their knowledge to small farmers, consolidate production, organise purchases, and develop new products.

It will be almost impossible for producers without an association in this sector to use the EU operational programmes necessary to improve production. Only through the joint work of all participants in the chain can we expect the strengthening of fruit and vegetable production to the level of other Mediterranean countries.

For more on the Croatian agriculture sector, follow our Made in Croatia section.

Sunday, 7 June 2020

Croatian Agriculture Doesn't Take Advantage of National Water Wealth

Does Croatian agriculture really take enough advantage of the country's enviable water wealth? If your answer is no, you'd be correct.

As Novac/Marina Klepo writes on the 6th of June, 2020, the Republic of Croatia irrigates a mere 2.5 percent of its agricultural land and according to this criterion is at the very back of the European Union (EU), according to an analysis by the Smarter consulting company.

According to EU statistics, the average share of irrigated areas in the EU27 (excluding Germany and Estonia) stands at 6.7 percent, while at the level of Mediterranean countries - it is as high as 12.5 percent.

Back in 2005, long before EU entry, the Croatian Government approved the National Project for Irrigation and Agricultural Land Management, which envisaged irrigating 65,000 hectares of land by the end of 2020, equal to about 6 percent of arable agricultural land.

However, that plan has still not been fulfilled "and shows all the illogicalities of investing in this project and Croatian agriculture", they note from Smarter. Out of a total of 4.5 billion kuna planned for a fifteen year period, around 1.3 billion kuna was invested in the construction of this system, and a negligible number of farmers are still connected to it all.

Croatian farmers haven't yet developed enough of an awareness that irrigation is one of the key reclamation measures that is necessary due to climate change to increase yield levels or at least keep them maintained at their existing levels. The low interest in general has also been heavily influenced by the high prices of equipment and connections to the systems, among other factors. At the same time, there is enormous potential for the development of Croatian agriculture, including significant reserves of perfectly clean drinking water. In terms of wealth and availability of water resources per capita, Croatia ranks fifth in Europe and 42nd in the world.

Jan de Jong, a Dutch investor and entrepreneur who moved from the Netherlands to Croatia back in 2006, recently wrote on his LinkedIn profile that he had Spanish and Croatian strawberries in front of him at Lidl.

''Guess which ones I bought?'' he wrote.

If a small country like the Netherlands can be the second largest exporter of agricultural products to the world, de Jong wonders, why would Croatia not be third in the world, given that it has an excellent climate and unused arable land almost the size of the Netherlands as a whole. He added that with the right investments in technology and knowledge, Slavonia's contribution to Croatia's GDP through agriculture could be greater than that of tourism.

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