Monday, 10 October 2022

With Inflation Continuing, How Much Will Litre of Croatian Olive Oil Cost?

October the 10th, 2022 - Inflation is showing little to no sign of easing its grip on society, and even the most basic of products are rising and rising. Croatian olive oil, one of the favourites of countless people and a frequent part of every dinner table, is also going to cost more than we've ever known it per litre.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, despite the unprecedented drought that the country experienced during this particularly harsh summer, Istrian olive growers have high expectations for their harvest and earnings. The Istrian olives are healthy, there is enough fruit, and the first drops of this year's Croatian olive oil indicate, as usual, a world-class product. That said, for a litre of extra virgin olive oil - you'll have to reach considerably deeper into your pocket and allocate a larger amount, as reported by HRT.

The first pickers entered the olive groves in the south of Istria recently and the fruits are being removed from the trees ready to be turned into Croatian olive oil, a much loved and heavily awarded product. The unprecedented drought this year failed to significantly reduce the crop, and the fruit was also finally aided by the recent rainfall. When it comes to the harvest, an average year is expected.

"We're harvesting with ten shakers, meaning we harvest around a tonne and a half of olives every day. When the machine harvest starts, then it goes up to four, five, and even six tonnes a day," said agronomist Armando Miljan.

In the plantations owned by the Chiavalon family, rosinjola is being harvested - an autochthonous variety of olive that has been the first to ripen in more recent years, but the harvest is uneven even there.

"It's good that some locations are already ripe and good for harvesting like this one, but some are completely green, because during the drought they were affected by a lack of water and were a little behind in the phenophase," said Sandi Chiavalon, a well-known Croatian olive grower from Vodnjan in Istria.

Oil mills have also opened their doors and people are busy bringing in the first olives for processing. "Last year there were few of them, there was nothing to speak of really. This summer has seen twice as much growth as last year", said Zlatko Ivancic, also from Vodnjan.

There will be enough Croatian olive oil, and its quality will be first-class, but it's going to come with a higher price. "These are some very aromatic oils. The polyphenols are high, which means that this is a healthy product," added Chiavalon. Due to the increase in energy prices and spiralling inflation which doesn't appear to be letting up, Croatian olive oil prices are, much like everything else, skyrocketing. "Now, one litre of bottled Croatian olive oil costs 180 kuna, so the maximum could be two hundred. I say that approximately, because we're never sure what tomorrow is going to bring, said Livio Belci, an olive grower from Vodnjan.

Despite the higher prices, the placement of premium olive oil should not be a problem. "Our production is around 30,000 litres of oil every year, which is an average, and everything is sold," said the director of Agroprodukt, Aleksandar Basic Palkovic.

Customers come from not only all over Croatia, but from all over Europe. However, the increase in the price of much-loved Croatian olive oil could be reflected in consumption by local people, who will need to think twice in many cases before making the purchase.

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

Thursday, 3 March 2022

Istrian Olive Grower Loses Land Bid as Ministry of Agriculture Backtracks on Tender Specifications

March 3rd, 2022 - Sandi Chiavalon, one of Croatia’s leading olive oil producers, was looking to invest around seven million kuna into a new olive grove in Istria.

Renowned olive grower Sandi Chiavalon was planning to lease 30 hectares of land in the Vodnjan area, close to another large olive grove owned by Oio Vivo, where he would plant nearly 10,000 olive trees and hire four new workers to manage the operation.

As reported by Glas Istre/Bojan Žižović, his plans fell through. In a strange turn of events, the Ministry of Agriculture didn’t approve the decision of the City of Vodnjan to lease state-owned land to Chiavalon, whose oil is produced in Vodnjan and exported to 23 countries worldwide.

This is a major agricultural project which, according to Chiavalon, would be beneficial for the wider community, including the national and city budgets. The state, however, says that Chiavalon and other local farmers cannot lease more than ten hectares of state land at once, as stipulated by the City of Vodnjan.

The decision of the state comes off as petty, as consent could have clearly been given in this case. As Chiavalon explained, the City’s land management plan indeed states that up to ten hectares of land can be leased to one party, but exceptions are allowed as long as it’s a single plot - as is the case here. The land in question is a single plot of about 70 hectares, divided by the City into six agricultural units of which Chiavalon was looking to lease three.

In the tender, whose content was approved by the Ministry of Agriculture, it was stated that whoever applies for one plot can lease up to 40 hectares of land on the said plot. Now that the tender is closed, the Ministry changed the tune and said that a maximum of ten hectares can be leased on the plot in question. As things stand, Chiavalon’s choices are to either lease only ten hectares or abandon the project entirely.

‘They called us from the City to have us choose which of those three plots of ten hectares we would lease. That doesn’t come close to what I wanted to do here - introduce an automated system, a completely new technology for grove maintenance… The question is whether we will take those ten hectares at all, we have to make an economic analysis of whether it’d be profitable to do it all on a land of that size. There are various systems in olive growing nowadays; intensive groves are robotically managed and processed. But for something like that we’d need a single large plot of land. We currently own 68 plots at 12 different locations. In those conditions, you can engage in organic olive growing only conventionally. When you have a single block of land, so to speak, such as Oio Vivo, only then can you introduce modern automated systems’, said Chiavalon.


Asked whether there was a chance of him leasing more than ten hectares in this area in the future, Chiavalon said he might if a new tender was announced. ‘As we had to drop out, some other people would probably apply to get the land. However, the question is who can make it operational because it’s a considerable investment’, said Chiavalon.

The olive grower from Vodnjan would have doubled the count of his olive trees if he got the lease he was going after. He currently owns 30 hectares of land, but as mentioned above, split between 12 different locations, which results in production costs 20 to 30 percent higher than if he were to cultivate a single parcel of that size.

He says there’s always the option to increase their output by purchasing produce from other farmers, but they want to grow as much of their own produce as possible.

Asked who was to blame for what happened, Chiavalon said the problem might lie in the lack of communication between the Ministry and the City of Vodnjan. ‘But the City did not come up with the tender out of thin air, it had to do so with the consent of the Ministry, whose clerk then said it wasn’t implemented well. If it had come to another clerk, it would have probably passed.’

He also pointed out that the laws concerning agricultural land keep changing and aren’t implemented efficiently. ‘This tender was announced a year and a half ago and was not completed in that time. In the meantime, the plot could have been cleared and a new grove planted. In 20 years, there were only three tenders for the lease of state-owned agricultural land, which is a disaster’, he said, adding that at least one tender should be announced every year given how much uncultivated land there is in the area. ‘There are more than 3,000 hectares of uncultivated land in Vodnjan. There’s plenty of land for everyone who wants to work in agriculture. You just need to have the resolve’, said Chiavalon.