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.

Monday, 4 April 2022

"Biblical" Bird Invasion Devastates Slavonian Fields, Farmers Desperate

April the 4th, 2022 - There is a plague of birds that is biblical in a way taking place over the rich Slavonian fields, with farmers and others in the agriculture sector scratching their heads as to what to do. All common means of deterring the birds are failing, and some are ready to start killing them.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, Slavonian farmer Darko Grivicic painfully stated that he feels as if he's walking around in a desert, and not in the usually rich and fertile Slavonian fields.

He sowed an ecological feast last autumn, and now his fields look like the Sahara, reports HRT. All of what he planted has been destroyed and eaten by wild geese and cranes, and there is devastation on all sides. The problem this year, according to Darko, is even bigger because of climate change. Darko's field isn't the only one that was ravaged by wild geese. Berislav Stefancic from Radovanje has had around 50 hectares of young crops consumed by birds.

The birds are omnivorous

“These are mostly omnivorous birds, except for the grey wild goose, which is a herbivore. At the pond, they have a good feeding ground as far as fish, snakes and frogs are concerned, and here is their salad in our fields. They eat mainly winter crops - wheat rapeseed oil and the like. We haven't sown those in this area for the last two years because the damage they cause is terrible,'' said Berislav.

Wild geese come because there are huge fishponds in nearby Oriovac, and an ornithological reserve for spoonbills has been declared there. From year to year, said Iva Ivezic from nearby Radovanje, more and more of these birds come, meaning that the damage to these crops is increasing.

"Every year the problem is getting worse and every time I come to the same question - These birds are protected, but who is working to protect us? This year, an extremely large number of birds have appeared that we can't seem to deter or stop. We can't see how we can solve this problem,'' emphasised Iva.

Farmers on duty, firecrackers, drones - nothing helps

Local farmers have tried everything they can imagine, testifies Josip Culetic from Slavonski Kobas, who has had about 70 percent of his crops eaten by birds. Scarecrows, farmers on duty, he's tried everything. He says that one can be on duty out in the Slavonian fields for 23 hours per day, and when you go home for lunch, the birds arrive and do their damage in the span of just five minutes.

"We've chased them away with drones, but the birds only moved within a kilometre or two. It's a viscious circle, they don’t give up at all. At one point, they gathered and headed for the drone, trying to attack it. They aren't stupid,'' added Berislav Stefancic.

Darko Grivicic added that they threw around a million firecrackers and rockets trying to drive away the birds, but they failed even with that harsher measure. Darko went a step further. For about 20 thousand kuna, he bought and deployed 11 gas cannons, but it didn't help much. He believes that these tenacious birds would get used to even 30,000 cannons.

“When we sow grain, they immediately land and take out the seeds. We put out the scarecrow, we come and stand around, and they're brazenly standing on the scarecrows. They have become immune to all our measures,'' added Iva Ivezic.

Local hunting associations are also powerless because hunting protected birds is prohibited, with the penalties for doing so being absolutely astronomical. Whoever kills such a bird pays a fine of up to 30 thousand kunas Darko Grivicic said that the situation is unsustainable, and so far, the birds have eaten 3 million kuna out of his pocket.

Some are already sick of the damage and are ready to poison the birds

Some local farmers are losing patience. Darko Grivicic testified that people are increasingly threatening to bring poison in from Bosnia, mix it with cereal and corn and scatter it across Slavonian fields.

"Facirol is an agent that can be mixed well into corn or grain and then scattered on the roads. I believe all the geese and cranes would die if they consumed it. The only question is where they die. If they die in the ponds, they'll probably poison the resident fish as well. If someone catches that fish and takes it home there is a possibility that we end up accidentally poisoning people.  But it has to be said that this is an option that some people are ready for, if nothing is done,'' claims Darko.

Slavonian farmers are now busy working on and announcing millions of lawsuits against the state that they claim is doing absolutely nothing to protect its own food producers.

For more, check out our lifestyle section.

Wednesday, 17 November 2021

Croatian Livestock Farmers Facing Issues, Seeking State Intervention

November the 17th, 2021 - Croatian livestock farmers are struggling cost-wise as competitiveness in placing domestic beef on the market when cheaper, lower quality foreign meat is ever-present is proving difficult.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, back at the end of last week, the Croatian Baby Beef Association for Fattening and Breeding requested the state's help for breeders in achieving cost competitiveness as cheap foreign imports dominate the scene.

The goal of the Association is to place young Croatian beef, known as baby beef, on store shelves and in the kitchens of restaurants and hotels, said the new president of the Baby Beef Association Zvonko Sirjan, who was elected at the annual election assembly held on Friday at the Bjelovar Fair in Gudovac.

Fodder prices have risen, while the price of meat has remained stable and has not kept pace with this increase, explained Sirjan, adding that due to the high price of fodder, Croatian livestock farmers are losing four to five kuna per kilogram of meat, which quickly adds up. Therefore, in order to "survive the winter", the intervention of the relevant ministry is necessary, he believes.

"As one of the short-term measures, we expect state intervention. Through product labelling we want to get higher prices that will help our sector survive. We're also proposing the opening of markets such as the Turkish and Israeli ones, and we certainly expect Croatian producers to be promoted and Croatian products to be sold through retail, and not only from imports,'' said Sirjan.

"We managed to brand our young Croatian beef baby beef and we'll continue to work on that. Our Association needs to respond to all of the challenges of the times and global trends where meat that comes to Croatian stores from elsewhere has a far lower price and we must try to resist that. We want to present ourselves to our consumers as serious producers who can guarantee quality, safety and a healthy product from Croatian farms,'' said Sirjan of the plight of Croatian livestock farmers who are rightfully worried about a difficult winter.

The Croatian Baby Beef Association is otherwise the oldest and largest cattle fattening association, founded back in 2000. It currently has 330 members, Croatian livestock farmers, who raise 120,000 cattle across the country.

For more, check out our business section.

Sunday, 31 January 2021

Marijana Petir Advocates Fairer EU Rules for Croatian Farmers

ZAGREB, 31 January, 2021 - Croatia has many advantages from EU membership, as confirmed by the adoption of the EU budget which guarantees €24.5 billion in the next seven years, but for Croatian farmers it also means that older member states' market surpluses end on the Croatian market at dumping prices, MP Marijana Petir has said.

She was speaking in a debate on the future of the EU's Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and Croatia's adjustment to reforms, organised in Zagreb last Tuesday by the European Parliament's Croatian office in cooperation with the Croatian parliament's Agriculture Committee, which Petir chairs.

She said that after the adoption of the Multiannual Financial Framework, an important part of the €24.5 billion envisaged for Croatia from 2021 to 2027 was the €5 billion envisaged for the CAP.

"But there's the other side of the coin and one should say that Croatian farmers have been faced with many challenges since Croatia joined the EU."

According to Petir, it is difficult for them to keep up with farmers in other member states due to internal reasons and the conditions on the single European market.

We realise that we have to resolve the problem of farmland management on our own, but we believe that the same rules should equally apply to all those participating in the single market, she said.

"It's neither sustainable nor just that older member states' market surpluses end on new member states' markets at dumping prices because that destroys our producers and they are faced with insurmountable differences."

Also, Petir said, the EU should pay attention to relations with third countries, reviewing trade agreements to make sure that imports meet all EU standards.

Monday, 21 September 2020

MEP, Chamber Say Farm to Fork Strategy is Chance for Croatian Farmers

ZAGREB, September 21, 2020 - The EU's Farm to Fork Strategy is an opportunity for Croatian farmers but a common fight is necessary to protect the domestic market, invest in technology and motivate youth to continue farming and stay in rural areas, MEP Biljana Borzan and the Croatian Chamber of Agriculture (HPK) said on Monday.

Speaking at a press conference, Borzan said it was necessary to transition to sustainable production in order to preserve soil, water and air.

She recalled that the EU planned, by 2030, to halve the use of pesticides and antibiotics in agriculture and to increase by 25% the land with ecological production.

In order to encourage the transition to sustainable production and consumption, the Farm to Fork Strategy envisages amending about 20 European laws and regulations and reviewing market standards for farm products.

Borzan said she would fight for the promotion of locally grown products, adding that Croatian farmers should be protected from products which did not meet European standards.

HPK president Mladen Jakopovic said Croatia met many ecological standards required in EU agriculture, adding that its advantages were a clean environment, the fact that it was GMO-free and had a diversified economy.

He warned, however, that excessive cheap imports, weak consumption and putting agriculture in a negative context had resulted in a production decline in all sectors.

Jakopovic said that in the past five years Croatia's agriculture production dropped 26%. Its value dropped from HRK 21 billion in 2012, before EU accession in mid-2013, to HRK 17 billion in 2019, he said, highlighing the negative foreign trade balance in cattle breeding.

He said that in order to contribute to the realisation of the Farm to Fork Strategy, farmers should have adequate financial support for the transition.

Trade agreements should not allow the import of goods which do not meet the EU's green standards, Jakopovic said, adding that every state should be at least 70% self-sufficient in the event of a crisis.

He said the HPK would compile a database of agricultural producer prices across the EU which would help to better enforce laws on unfair trade practices and show which EU country undermined the market with dumping prices.


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Sunday, 29 March 2020

Marinada, Supermarket Chains Helping Small Croatian Farmers

March 29, 2020 - The Croatian lockdown and market closures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus particularly affected Croatian farmers, who are no longer available to essential sales channels, thus endangering their livelihoods.

HRTurizam writes that didn’t take long, however, for various Facebook neighborhood, city, and county groups to emerge as online marketplaces that promote local OPGs and their offerings in one place and connect them directly with customers. Also, various IT companies have set up small webshops to assist Croatian farmers in order to facilitate communication and sales.

But since the beginning of the week, Marinada - a leading company in the region in the production, processing, buying and selling of fresh fruits and vegetables - has launched an action for small producers to help small-scale farms. 

Thus, Marinada is helping Croatian farmers get their products on the market.

"We are ready to respond by buying fruits and vegetables from agricultural producers, whether they are our subcontractors or not, standardize the product as much as possible and deliver it to the market," said Marinada owner Denis Matijevic.

Five days later, Marinada reported that the response was excellent and that they had communicated with over 100 producers so far, and 40 of them had cooperated. "For the time being, Swiss chard, lettuce and young onions have been bought, in the order of products that are now in season, and of course we are ready to buy whatever else comes in season," Matijevic points out.

Matijevic also added that in the current situation, it is necessary to take care of a safe and sufficient supply of population, which they do. “It is especially important to take care of small farmers who are now in challenging times. We must not let them stop working, because they are an important link for achieving self-sufficiency in the future,” Matijevic emphasized.

The company is headquartered in Slatina, one of the state-of-the-art pasteurized fruit and vegetable production facilities in the region, and small producers who want to market their merchandise are being asked to come to Marinada's shopping centers located in Virovitica, Varaždin, Donji Miholjac, Zagreb and Opuzen.

Contact Marinada HERE for full details on marketing your merchandise

At the same time, Marinada launched an initiative urging supermarket chains to do the same.

"The initiative was readily accepted by Konzum and SPAR retail chains, which will market these goods to customers, and others are expected to be involved, given the positive reactions," Matijevic concluded.

To further help small domestic farmers who can no longer sell their products at marketplaces, SPAR invites all small producers to contact them to ensure that their products are placed on the SPAR and INTERSPAR store shelves.

“Products from more than 40 small domestic producers and OPGs can be found on our shelves. In addition, we cooperate with small producers of fruits and vegetables through our brand "Croatian Gardens". We invite all small fruit and vegetable growers who can no longer market their products to contact us directly by calling 01 2410 900,” says SPAR.

Konzum will also open a much-needed sales channel to small domestic manufacturers after the markets closed.

"With this initiative, we are ready to offer our buying capacities and sales network to those who are not able to market their products," emphasized Konzum, adding: “Fruits and vegetables of Croatian origin already account for over 80 percent of turnover in that category in Konzum, and through the new initiative we are ready to offer our buying capacities and sales network to those who do not have the opportunity to market their products after the markets closed for domestic producers of fruits and vegetables. Citizens will soon be able to continue buying these products in Konzum stores all over Croatia.”

Interested farmers can contact distributors PIK Vinkovci, Marinada, and Fragarias who will buy and deliver to Konzum.

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