As the summer unfolds, more wildfires burn across Croatia. The latest blazes have engulfed a 2,500-tree olive grove near the northern Dalmatian town of Polača.
“It was terrible. Shocking,” said Josip Kulaš, 50, who owns the grove and produces olive oil at OPG Kulaš with his family.
Kulaš first saw the fire rapidly approaching his olive trees through the window of his house. Without hesitating, he went to the scene with his 76-year-old father, Milo Kulaš.See Also:Experiment with North African Olive Varieties Bears Fruit in Croatia
Firefighters from Polača and the surrounding towns soon arrived. “They put out the fire with superhuman efforts,” Kulaš said.
The fire spread from the neighboring, privately-owned, abandoned plot of land with forest and low vegetation growing.
However, the flames quickly crossed onto Kulaš’s property and began to engulf his trees, spreading from one canopy to the next.
Before it was extinguished, the fire burned through a row of 200 Cypressina trees and damaged between 300 and 350 trees in the olive grove.
“Fortunately, there is no dry grass in the olive grove, so extinguishing it was much easier,” a firefighter said.
Kulaš, who also owns a small accounting firm, decided to plant an organic olive grove 15 years ago and received 10 hectares of state land in a 50-year loan.
“From the beginning, we did everything according to the rules of the profession,” he said. Along with him and his father, other family members are involved in the business, including his mother, Stoja, wife, Suzana, and daughters, Antonija and Valentina.
The family’s olive oil business is a vital part of their livelihood. They expected to produce at least 8,500 liters of oil from this year’s harvest with plans to sell to customers in Istria and Slovenia.See Also:2022 Wildfire Season Expected to Be Europe’s Worst
His Faustina brand – produced with Oblica, Leccino and Pendolino olives – has won various domestic and international awards. “We will miss the oil from the fruits of the burned trees,” he said.
Fortunately, the fruit and the trees in his olive grove were insured, so part of the damage, estimated at more than HRK 100,000 (€13,370), will be compensated.
This is the sixth year in a row that the Kulaš family has insured the olive grove using subsidies from the Rural Development Program (Measure 17), which is guaranteed by the Ministry of Agriculture for the insurance of crops, animals and plants.
“In our case, the annual insurance policy costs HRK 36,388 (€4,866). Of this, our OPG pays HRK 10,000 (€1,337) or 30 percent, and the Agency for Payments in Agriculture, Fisheries and Rural Development within the Ministry of Agriculture pays the other HRK 25,472 (€3,406) or 70 percent,” Kulaš said.
He recommends that other farmers insure their crops and agricultural infrastructure.
After the experts determine the total amount of damage, Kulaš and his family will begin the restoration of the burned olive grove.
They will remove all the damaged parts of the trees, starting with the leaves, outermost branches, secondary or skeletal branches, trunk and roots, depending on the degree of damage.
In the case of the most severely damaged trees, they will remove the entire tree and plant new ones.