Saturday, 26 March 2022

Could Drought Throw Spanner in Works for Croatian Strawberries?

March the 26th, 2022 - Could Croatian strawberries from the fertile and ever-rich Neretva Valley in southern Dalmatia be under threat following an unusually long dry season?

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, due to an abnormally long dry period, Croatian strawberries from plantations down in the Neretva Valley have been placed in danger, as reported by the Maslina portal.

Although it is now climatologically spring, meaning that the general level of precipitation should technically be enough at this moment in time, the situation is completely different and unusual for this time of year. Only 20 millimetres of rain has fallen so far, while for comparison, about 800 mm fell in the period from October to December.

According to agro-estimates, about two million strawberry seedlings have been planted down in the Neretva Valley, which should be harvested during April, but in order for the these much loved 100% Croatian strawberries to properly ripen, they need regular watering with high quality water, which is not available in the Neretva Valley.

Namely, the water is salty owing to the location, which was repeatedly warned about by the association of fruit and vegetable producers (Neretva Youth/Neretvanska Mladez), which addressed the situation in an open letter to the competent Minister, Marija Vuckovic, warning her of the problem of irrigation.

The association warned that Croatian strawberries are an agricultural crop that is extremely sensitive to increased salt concentrations, especially sodium chloride, but the water in the canals from which local farmers take what they need is currently of extremely poor quality, which is naturally placing Croatian strawberries and indeed other locally grown produce in an unfavourable position.

They also pointed out that extreme climate changes haven't bypassed the Neretva Valley either, because there has been and continues to be almost no rain.

"For two months now, we've been experiencing an extremely dry period with a dry wind - bura", the Neretva Youth Association explained for the Maslina portal.

For more, check out our dedicated lifestyle section.

Friday, 17 September 2021

Charamanga Hot Sauce Combines Flavors of Neretva Valley and Mediterranean

September 17, 2021 - Charamanga hot sauce is a 100% Neretva Valley product created by Mijo Micheta Ćelić.

The Croatian hot sauce scene is getting richer and more diverse. Mijo Micheta Ćelić, a professor of cooking at Metković High School and the creative mind behind the line of hot sauces called Charamanga, has also joined this chili-loving crowd, reports Like Metković.

On his family estate in Duvrat, Ćelić grows Cayenne pepper, Jamaican hot yellow, Habanero, Fed mushroom, and the hottest among them Carolina red reaper and tabasco pepper, which are added to hot sauces.

It all started exactly three years ago when, as part of his family farm, he planted various types of hot peppers on agricultural land behind the family kitchen. However, he was only attempting to standardize his sauce for Neretva brudet, which failed and still remains a challenge. He worked at the Hotel Saudade Gradac 5-6 years ago, where the name, Charamanga, came to life. 

"One day, chef Barba came and said ‘Give me Mijo’s charamanga!’, When asked what it was, he just replied ‘Oh, that’s the spicy stuff Mijo is mixing,’ he recalls of its beginnings.

A six-year culinary experience on cruise ships also had a significant influence on Mijo's creativity:

"I've seen the world, got to know different cuisines, and when it comes to spices, Thai is somehow the closest thing to me. Still, I want to give each of my sauces something homemade, guided by the flavors that are familiar to the palates of our people, but in a new format," he said. 

"My angel, right hand, and great support is Marija Cindrić, who is responsible for the visual identity and branding of products and for social media marketing. At the very beginning, the world of hot sauces in our area was opened by 'Juta Spiza' from Split. Today I work closely with 'Slavonsko Zlo'," says Mijo and lists the places where his hot sauces are served: Mama Mia and Industry Pub in Metković, Beach House in Blace, Oliva, Piazza Bistro & Cafe, and Žminac in Ploče, Morenia in Brist, Papar Grill in Makarska, Štikovica, Saint Blaise in Dubrovnik, Demežana in Cavtat, Kai in Zagreb.

Interestingly, Charamanga hot sauces have also reached distant destinations in Japan and the Philippines, thanks to the chefs Mijo has collaborated with.

Each Charamanga sauce is named after a chef Mijo has worked with. So far, he has launched eight types, is preparing two more sauces (Divlji and John) and two dry spices. 

Bajto - habanero hot pepper / liquid smoke/fennel seeds/carrots / homemade wine vinegar/sugar; herbs: heather, lemon balm, sage, mint, rosemary, basil
Barba - hot cayenne pepper/honey/tomato; herbs: basil and oregano. It is recommended with all types of pizza, bolognese pasta, and other Italian dishes.
Dotur - habanero hot pepper/fig/cherry / homemade wine vinegar; herbs: heather, lemon balm, sage, mint rosemary. A universal spice that is most domesticated in grilled dishes
Gigec - Jamaican hot yellow pepper/mandarin/cinnamon/star anise. Indigenous representative of Neretva gastronomy

Ku-ma - Habanero / cayenne pepper / mushroom pepper / roasted horn pepper / plum / mint. The hottest Charamanga sauce
Lipa Kate (Aceto balsamico) - vinegar / fig / sugar / cherry. It is recommended as an addition to salads and stews, dedicated
Micheta - habanero chili pepper/salt/honey / homemade wine vinegar; herbs: rosemary, sage, heather, lemon balm, mint, thyme, basil. The first Charamanga sauce and the only one that is not fermented
Pa-jo - kumquat / wine / vinegar / mallow / mint / sugar / salt. The fermentation of kumquat achieved a special sour-spicy note. Pairing with blue fish is recommended. Ideal for marinated fish and sardine carpaccio
Giovanni dry spice - an addition to dishes and cooking. It contains mountain herbs such as sage, calluna, and thyme, as well as home-grown herbs such as lemon balm, mint, rosemary 
Rodijak dry spice - an addition to dishes and cooking. A mixture of paprika and salt, a great addition to broths.

Mijo has suggested one recipe for each which you can find on the official website.

For more on travel in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Tuesday, 17 August 2021

Croatian Watermelon Producers Hampered by Imported Fruit

August the 17th, 2021 - Croatian watermelons are enormous, delicious and very fairly priced. Eating one on a hot day listening to the calm laps of the Adriatic and the songs of the crickets is priceless, but Croatian watermelon producers don't have it easy, despite the popularity of what they grow and sell.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, Croatian watermelon consumption is the same as beer consumption - people consume more when the thermometer is at its absolute maximum and there's little else one can physically manage in that heat than sitting and eating and drinking. Neretva fruit growers claim that their watermelon was bought for 1.20 kuna until a week ago, and then the demand stopped rather abruptly.

If they didn't take care of the sale of the much loved Croatian watermelon on famous southern Dalmatian roadside stands and on the markets, many failed to even sell even a kilogram because overripe Italian watermelon arrived on the Croatian market, sold next to the home-grown sweet ones, which were additionally sweetened by drought, Vecernji list has learned from fruit grower Neven Mataga from Opuzen.

"It's a total disaster. It's unfortunate that there are so many tourists in Croatia, and yet we have nowhere to sell the Croatian watermelon. My heart aches when I see how many are still sitting out there in the field. We grow them, harvest them, put them in containers, and the traders just take them away and charge three times more than we spent on them. Now even that won't happen either.

I believe that this is nothing but a targeted action to destroy Croatian watermelon production. You're so exhausted by it all that you can no longer work and you just give up,'' explained the indignant Mataga, adding that traders aren't interested "in fruit under six and over 12 kilograms'' and that they're looking for a special weight.

In the retail chains many have visited, the Croatian food section is becoming more and more difficult to find, especially if it is known that the year for fruits and vegetables was generally bad, and not only in Croatia.

Certain fruits, such as raspberries and blackberries are primarily Croatia, while grapes are typically coming in from neighbouring Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Italy, apples are coming in from Slovenia, lemons are coming all the way from Argentina, the peaches and pears are from Spain, the nectarines are from Italy and Turkey, and the plums are from Moldova.

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Saturday, 14 August 2021

No Beach, No Problem: Rogotin Tourism Booming in Neretva Valley

August 14, 2021 - Rogotin tourism is booming in the Neretva Valley, and this is even without a city beach! 

Many wonder how Rogotin, a small town in the Neretva Valley's northwest, a few kilometers away from the city center, is leading tourism in the Ploče area. And this is with more famous tourist destinations around and despite the limited number of accommodation facilities and classic tourist facilities, including a beach.

In addition, Rogotin locals have only recently been involved in tourism, so they also lack experience, reports Slobodna Dalmacija.

Despite everything, according to the data of the Ploče Tourist Board, in the first six months of this year, compared to the same period of the extremely successful 2019, it was in Rogotin that the largest number and increase in overnight stays were achieved. In the first half of the year, 2349 overnight stays were realized, increasing almost 37 percent compared to the first six months of 2019 (1716)! Baćina recorded an increase of about ten percent (1455 vs. 1324), and Staševica 36 percent (129 compared to 95). In other settlements in the city area, there was a decrease in overnight stays compared to the year before last. Among the guests, most are locals, followed by Germans, Czechs, Hungarians, Poles, citizens of BiH, Ukraine, Slovakia, and Austria.

Guests find Rogotin to have a peaceful, relaxing atmosphere, beautiful landscape and is close to famous tourist destinations.

Spouses Larry and Jamie from San Diego, California, traveled to Denmark and Portugal, and before their final destination in Greece, they stayed in Rogotin for three days. They were thrilled by the world attraction of wind turbines on the Trovro hill and the view of the Neretva Valley, and enjoyed a four-kilometer-long boat ride on the canal that connects Lake Vlaška, one of the symbols of Rogotin, with the Adriatic Sea. 

The Pranjić family, Sandra, Mario, and daughter Ida, are from Zagreb, but their life circumstances took them to Oslo, Norway. First, however, they set aside three days for Rogotin. It is a quiet base from which they get to know everything they are interested in in the lower Neretva, from the mouth of the river to Opuzen, and special attention is drawn to the Pelješac bridge.

For the first time, a young family of four, Valentina, Marian, Patrik, and Liliana Kuchtova arrived in Rogotin from Poprad, Slovakia. They said they don’t like crowds and noise and looked for a quiet and peaceful place to rest. When it comes to Croatia, so far, they have been to Dubrovnik, Split, Makarska, and Podgora, and they got to know Biokovo. They pointed out that they had found everything they needed for a holiday in Rogotin, and they had already arranged next summer's trip with their kind hosts, who surprised them with gifts.

Marin Glamuzina, the mayor of Rogotin, is not satisfied with the attitude of the current city government, and his opinion is shared by the majority of Rogotin residents. Despite the promises and the fact that a beach is planned in the Ploče budget, this project has not been realized. When the number of tourist visits to Rogotin is growing significantly, this issue is becoming key to the further development of tourism.

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

Thursday, 8 October 2020

Neretva Fruit Growers Breathe Sigh of Relief as Third of Produce Has Buyer

As Novac writes on the 7th of October, 2020, ENNA Fruit, a new player in the Neretva Valley fruit and vegetable purchase market, created by the recapitalisation of Marinada, intends to buy about a third of the entire mandarin crop in the Neretva Valley this year, triggering a sigh of relief from the Neretva fruit growers.

As the head of the purchase centre, Dragan Crnomarkovic, revealed, they plan to buy about 10,500 tonnes of mandarins. It is estimated that this year, the yield of the Neretva fruit growers is about 32,000 tonnes in total. This redemption centre started with a price of four kuna for the first and 2.5 for the second class of mandarins. After just one week, the price was adjusted to 3.5 kuna for the first class, while the second class remained at 2.5 kuna.

"The average price shouldn't be bad because the yield is lower than average, and the quality is excellent. There's no reason for a sudden and large drop in prices because there will be demand for Neretva mandarins on the market," Crnomarkovic told Slobodna Dalmacija.

ENNA Fruit buys from more than 380 Neretva fruit growers, more specifically mandarin producers, of which only five have a yield of more than 100 tonnes. The fragmentation of plots is one of the bigger problems. "We suggest producers to gather in associations and producer organisations. Then it would be easier for them and also for us. They could protect their interests, and it would be much easier for us to work and communicate. It would be easier to plan delivery dynamics, prices, and ultimately negotiate and about the delivery of raw materials,'' Crnomarkovic explained.

Export potential

The first quantities of purchased early varieties of mandarins from ENNA Fruit were placed out in the usual environment. The strategic buyer is Konzum, and they also sold them to Mercator Slovenia and Mercator Serbia. "This week, foreign markets are opening outside of our region, the most represented of which is the Czech and then the Slovak market. We're the only company that sells mandarins in more distant markets such as the British, Irish and Dutch markets. We also sell something in Austria. There's export potential, but we must have good quality and good organisation,'' stated Crnomarkovic.

He also revealed that Spanish mandarin producers are less competitive in high-tariff and regulated markets than in unregulated, price-sensitive markets. ''Our small volumes don't endanger them on markets where they're heavily represented, and they're the most prevalent on the British and German markets,” he noted.

ENNA Fruit cannot, according to Crnomarkovic, function only in the purchase of mandarins. Mandarins, he says, are the backbone of business and without it nothing would be worth doing. But they are a significant buyer of other produce of Neretva fruit growers, such as watermelon and strawberries. Leaving fruit aside, they're also fond of cabbage, greenhouse greens such as lettuce and chard, cucumbers, peppers...

"Apart from watermelon, which we buy about 2000 tonnes and, of course, mandarins, other production in the Neretva Valley has fallen sharply. The merging and direct cooperation of these associations with distribution centres could result in the production of fresh fruit and vegetables in the Neretva Valley returning to their former levels, but without the association and organisation of producers this goal is difficult to achieve.

Joint promotion

''The label of authenticity, which was given to the Neretva mandarin, unfortunately, hasn't provided it with any progress. In order to have an effect, we must organise ourselves at all levels and jointly promote the Neretva mandarin. That way, we could achieve a higher price on the foreign market,'' said Crnomarkovic.

ENNA Fruit, he says, is now a very potent company on the market. "Liquidity has significantly improved. The payment deadline is 30 days. We have an excellent buying and selling network, both in Croatia and in the market of the region, and we're positioning ourselves better when it comes to exports," Crnomarkovic concluded.

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Thursday, 1 October 2020

Neretva Valley Expecting Good Harvest Season Despite Coronavirus Crisis

October the 1st, 2020 - It's rare to read anything about the coronavirus pandemic bringing positive results to anyone or anything, but it does happen, and not only to companies who make masks. The Neretva Valley, famous for its abundance of fruit which can be seen sold all over the country on stands and in various stories in the colder months, has done very well indeed and is expecting a great harvest season this year.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes on the 30th of September, 2020, mandarin oranges are the only Croatian export fruit, whose harvest officially begins during the last days of September as autumn overtakes summer. While the Neretva Valley's fruit growers are anxiously awaiting the harvest season, which will take place under unprecedented epidemiological conditions, it seems that the coronavirus could actually go hand in hand with them as opposed to against them, as has been the case with just about every other field imaginable.

Namely, higher demand is expected for the Neretva Valley's fruit, as it is packed full of vitamin C, which is traditionally used to strengthen immunity and remain healthy, writes Slobodna Dalmacija. As such, the Neretva Valley's many fruit growers hope to be able to sell their mandarin oranges just as well, if not better, than in previous years.

However, in Croatia, it has been proven time and time again that nothing is ever particularly certain when it comes to agriculture, because every year imports destroy domestic production during the traditional season of harvesting homegrown fruit and vegetables. Owing to that, it’s hard to assume that in the case of the Neretva Valley's mandarin oranges, the scenario from May will be repeated, when domestic strawberry growers sold their strawberries and still made good money because there were no imports due to the coronavirus and the restrictions that came as a result of it.

Initial estimates show that the Neretva Valley growers will have a production of about 32,000 tonnes of mandarin oranges this season, which is a mediocre crop, but good quality is expected regardless.

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Friday, 18 September 2020

Six of the Best! Croatian Protected Produce On Sale in China

September 18, 2020 – Six items of Croatian protected produce are among the 100 European items to go on sale in China

Six items of Croatian protected produce are among the 100 European items to go on sale in China. In a reciprocal deal, 100 Chinese products will also be recognised and recommended on the European market.

34933c5e0f633c5d1e4f45c5b0cd6dc9_XL.jpgDalmatian prosciutto © TZ Vrgorac

Baranja kulen, Dalmatian prosciutto, Drniš prosciutto, Lika potatoes, Dingač wine and Neretva mandarins are the premium six Croatian protected produce chosen to be among the European 100. All of the Croatian protected produce is already recognised at a national and at an EU-level and designated its status based on its unique place of origin.

Dingač.jpgDingač wine © Silverije

339ed3435d099dd0a91c267af376e8f0_XL.jpgNeretva Mandarins

The European products will be specially marked and receive special privileges when they go on sale in China. Alongside the Croatian protected produce, other items on the European list are French champagne, Greek feta cheese, Italian Parma prosciutto, Italian mozzarella, Irish whiskey and Portuguese port. On the Chinese list of products are distinct varieties of rice, bean and vegetable products, some of which will already be popular with Europeans who eat or cook Chinese cuisine.

_DSC5737_DxO.jpgDrniš prosciutto © Tourist Board of Drniš

The full list of Croatian produce protected at an EU-level currently includes Istrian olive oil, Dalmatian prosciutto, Pag cheese, Lika lamb, Poljički Soparnik, Zagorje turkey, Korčula olive oil, Istrian prosciutto, Sour cabbage from Ogulin, Neretva mandarins, Slavonian honey, Drniš prosciutto, Cres olive oil, Pag salt, Baranja kulen, Bjelovarski kvargl, Varaždin cabbage, Pag lamb, Šolta olive oil, Meso 'z tiblice, Zagorje mlinci, Krk prosciutto, Lika potatoes, Slavonian kulen, Krk olive oil.

MK4_5082.jpegBaranja kulen, featured within a traditional Slavonian platter © Romulić & Stojčić

b9def02b6d20f4f0adb6e889f99af491_XL.jpgLika Potatoes

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Tuesday, 11 August 2020

Is Birdwatching Future of Neretva Valley Tourism?

August 11, 2020 - Dalmatia is a paradise for those who enjoy birdwatching, but also other visitors eager to use their adventurous spirit, who are eagerly awaiting to visit the Neretva Valley, otherwise an ornithological reserve, already this autumn.

Slobodna Dalmacija reports that unlike the current tourism, which has recorded losses around Dalmatia, the corona crisis could open new tourist products such as kitesurfing or birdwatching.

And while kitesurfing proved to be a complete success, bird watchers and nature lovers have yet to arrive in Croatia. Since these are guests who are of generally higher spending power, Neretva caterers are rubbing their hands with excitement.

There are several birdwatching sites in Europe.

These are most often large wetlands in Gibraltar visited by millions of migratory birds, followed by Donana in Spain, the Camargue in France, Eilat in Israel.

Alongside them are the Dalmatian bird habitats of the Neretva Valley, Vrana Lake, Kolansko Blato, which should be promoted as "birdwatching" destinations.

The significance of the Neretva delta for bird watchers is best illustrated by the numerous finds of ringed birds that were in this area in winter or during spring and autumn migration. In the Neretva, there are various species of ducks, herons, terns, eagles, jays, terns and rods rest, which is a real treat for bird and nature lovers.

"It is the greatest pleasure for foreign visitors to be in nature outdoors. Birdwatching is a novelty in the local tourist offer," reveals Pavo Jerkovic, a tourist worker with many years of experience in promoting selective forms of tourism, starting with photo safaris through the Neretva swamp. Bird lovers bring binoculars and bird identification literature with them. Some even record the birds singing and photograph them with special telephoto lenses.

"The guest takes binoculars and observes the birds on the check for several hours. This is where their lunch is organized and it is an unforgettable experience for them. Guests also love to fish. When they catch a plotica or catfish, they immediately cook it in a brudet," says Pavo Jerkovic, who hopes for a more intensive visit by birdwatchers in the off-season when the autumn migration of birds begins.

Birdwatchers are usually wealthy and highly educated clientele, who do not regret the money if they get what they want in return. It is not a problem for them to travel halfway around the world to observe birds in the Neretva, explore certain species, or write in their notes that they have seen a rare bird.

More than 150 bird species regularly appear in the Neretva Valley, most of which are considered to be the target species of the Neretva Delta ecological network area.

As the largest reed complex in the Republic of Croatia, the entire Neretva delta area is important as a resting place during the migration of birds to Africa, as well as for wintering bird populations from northeastern and central Europe. That is why the Neretva Valley wants to be protected.

"The Municipality of Zazablje supports the initiative that after 15 years the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Energy declares a special ornithological reserve in Kuti. Thus, the municipality gained additional value, the potential for the development of selective forms of tourism, and at the same time, the preservation of this area," said the mayor of Zazablje, Maja Vrnoga. The main tourist offer in the area of the proposed special reserves is a photo safari in a traditional boat, sport fishing, diving, kayaking, bird watching, cycling and hiking.

"This area was supposed to be protected 25 years ago, but it is never too late and I welcome all activities that protect nature. However, it is necessary to inform the local population about everything and explain exactly what they gain or what they lose when a certain area is protected.

People need to adapt to nature and live and work in harmony with nature," says Jerkovic, who built a "Neretva house" on the shores of Lake Kuti, which is visited by several thousand foreign visitors during the season in Neretva boats, because there is no other way.

"Foreign visitors are happy when they ride in boats and meet our farmers who treat them to figs, strawberries, cherries, mandarins. There is no such thing anywhere in the world," emphasizes Jerkovic, who hopes that the proclamation of a special reserve of Lake Kuti will intensify the tourist offer of this area, which will benefit both tourist workers and local farmers.

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Saturday, 8 August 2020

Zagreb and Stablina Share First Place at 23rd Ladja Marathon in Neretva

August 8, 2020 - Zagreb and Stablina are the winners of the 23rd Ladja Marathon on the Neretva River.

HRT reports that these two crews alternated in the lead throughout the race. Zagreb was the first to enter the finish line, but the judges later decided that both teams were the winners and that there would be no second place, for the first time in the history of the competition.

The reason for this move was that at one point in the race, the Zagreb team took away the advantage from Stablina.

Sveti Ilija from Metkovic came in third.

On the 22.5-kilometer-long track from Metkovic to Ploce, organized by the Neretva Boatmen's Association, 35 crews competed for the Great Shield of Prince Domagoj. Each boat crew consists of 10 rowers, a drummer and helmsman.

Before arriving in Opuzen, the crews of Stablina, Crni put Metkovic, Zagreb and Slivno were in the lead, and in Komin, for more than half of the race, the leaders were Zagreb and Stablina. After almost two hours of racing, Stablina and Zagreb were still at the top, followed by two Metkovic crews, Sveti Ilija and Crni put.

This year's marathon was held without spectators and under the auspices of the President of the Republic Zoran Milanovic.

Last year, Gusari from Komin celebrated.

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Tuesday, 19 May 2020

First Step Taken to Declare Special Reserves in Neretva Valley

May 19, 2020 - The Ministry of Environmental Protection and Energy has drafted a Proposal to proclaim new special reserves in the Neretva Valley. 

Namely, the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Energy has drafted a Proposal for a Decree on proclaiming the "Blue Eye (Modro Oko) and Desne Lake", "the mouth of the Neretva" and "Kuti Lake" as special reserves. 

The protection of these areas in the category of special reserves is of special interest to the Republic of Croatia, thus achieving the preconditions for long-term conservation of wetland ecosystems and its biodiversity, landscape and geological diversity.

The greatest wealth and diversity of fauna refers to the world of birds, and fish at the mouth of the Neretva. Over 150 species of birds regularly appear in the Neretva Valley, and a total of over 300 species have been recorded.

Of these, 65 species are considered target species in the Neretva Delta ecological network area (HR1000031). As the largest reed complex in the Republic of Croatia, the entire Neretva delta area is important as a resting place during the migration of birds to Africa, as well as for wintering bird populations from northeastern and central Europe.

The Neretva is one of the largest rivers of the eastern part of the Adriatic basin and flows through Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia until reaching the Adriatic Sea. It is also the largest karst river in the Dinaric Alps in the eastern part of the Adriatic basin/watershed.

The total length of the Neretva Riva is 225 kilometers. Two hundred eight kilometers are in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the final 22 kilometers are in Dubrovnik-Neretva County.

The documentation to proclaim the "Blue Eye and Desne Lake", "mouth of Neretva" and "Kuti" special reserves are available for public inspection on the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Energy website.

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