`Olive Farmers on Croatian Island Sue Local City Over Land Ownership - Olive Oil Times

Olive Farmers on Croatian Island Sue Local City Over Land Ownership

Mar. 29, 2022
Nedjeljko Jusup

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The oil from the lat­est har­vest of wild Lun olives will not be a sen­sa­tion.

There was no real har­vest at all, and the lit­tle fruit that was har­vested is not for top results,” said Želimir Badurina, pres­i­dent of the Lun Olive Cooperative on the island of Pag, with pal­pa­ble sad­ness in his voice.

We think that we inherit olives and any added value that comes from these mil­len­nial trees, and the city and the state should sup­port all this. - Želimir Badurina, pres­i­dent, Lun Olive Cooperative

In the spring of this year, Badurina enthu­si­as­ti­cally accepted the ini­tia­tive of the pres­i­dent of the Zadar County Olive Growers Association, Ivica Vlatković, to pro­duce oil from wild Lun olives and, together with oils from Dalmatia, send it to the NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition.

The olive groves of Lun cover 400 hectares with 80,000 wild olive trees, one of the largest wild olive groves in the world.

See Also:Award-Winning Producer Says Croatians Need to Return to Their Traditional Roots

The intense heat prac­ti­cally burned the flow­ers, fer­til­iza­tion went wrong, so some of the fruits that sur­vived the heat­stroke began to get sick over time. The leafy” fruits turned black and fell off too.

As one trou­ble does not come alone, the old olive groves of Lun were also vis­ited by pests, includ­ing olive fruit flies, bor­ers and moths.

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There was no healthy fruit that you can make one strong, top-qual­ity oil,” Badurina said.

However, a lack of high-qual­ity olive oil to send to New York has not been the only prob­lem fac­ing pro­duc­ers on Pag. Badurina said the under­ly­ing issue of who owns the land on which the olive trees grow has come to the fore.

On this part of the island, the grow­ers are the own­ers of olive trees, but not the land on which they grow.

As a result, some feel that the oil is not 100 per­cent theirs, pos­si­bly even ille­gally pro­duced. Badurina refers to this as the Lun para­dox, a relic of the past dat­ing back to 1848, when serf­dom was abol­ished.

Lun was then under the local admin­is­tra­tion of Rab, a neigh­bor­ing island, and was given the area of​olive groves.

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The fer­tile olive trees were entered in the land books. Each olive tree has an owner, and Lun jointly owned the land and the pas­ture as a land com­mu­nity. This arrange­ment lasted until Croatia’s inde­pen­dence from Yugoslavia in the 1990s.

Badurina said that with Croatian inde­pen­dence came silent nation­al­iza­tion. The city of Novalja and the Croatian gov­ern­ment reg­is­tered the land.

This became clear to local farm­ers dur­ing the admin­is­tra­tion of Ivo Sanader, Croatia’s prime min­is­ter from 2003 to 2009, and the sub­se­quent pas­sage of the 2013 Law on Agricultural Land.

See Also:How the Climate Makes and Breaks One Award-Winning Producer’s Harvest

The law explic­itly stated that the state of Croatia would put its land into oper­a­tion through a pub­lic ten­der to the high­est bid­der.

Only then did it become clear to local pro­duc­ers what the game is about.” The area of​olive groves and the most attrac­tive part, 70 to 80 hectares known as the Lunja Olive Gardens, could be sold to any­one.

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Tourists in the gardens

At the same time, the increas­ingly famous Lun olives were fetch­ing ever-higher prices due to their attrac­tive loca­tion. As a result, Badurina said that grow­ers felt they would be unable to pur­chase the land at the auc­tion.

To pre­vent the land from being sold out from under their feet, the farm­ers filed a law­suit. In the mean­time, they gath­ered in the Lun Olive Cooperative, of which Badurina is the founder and was the first man­ager. He served sim­i­lar roles at the Association of Lun Olive Growers.

We have decided to file a law­suit against the state and the city to gain own­er­ship of the land,” he said. We brought together 85 fam­i­lies who filed a law­suit. They are the suc­ces­sors of those who have moved away and own an olive tree.”

We are not the own­ers of the land, and we have reg­is­tered the own­er­ship of fruit trees and the right to graft olives,” Badurina added. We got this right before we got the land in 1848 when serf­dom in the Austro-Hungarian Empire was abol­ished, and the land was given to the inhab­i­tants of Lun.”

Badurina said that the early sig­nals from the city of Novalja were that the munic­i­pal­ity would rec­og­nize the grow­ers’ claims to the land. He added that an agree­ment with pros­e­cu­tors should see the land of the Lunja Olive Gardens returned to grow­ers.

However, col­lec­tive and indi­vid­ual law­suits are still pend­ing, and until then, grow­ers on Lun will have trou­ble access­ing grants from the state and European Union.

Badurina warned that non-har­vests, sim­i­lar to the one endured this year, would become more com­mon as some of the funds that grow­ers pre­vi­ously accessed were used to mon­i­tor and pre­vent the spread of pests.

We think that we inherit olives and any added value that comes from these mil­len­nial trees, and the city and the state should sup­port all this,” Badurina said. We are also ready to com­pro­mise: the state could give us land on a long-term lease.”


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