Wildfires Stress the Importance of Crop Insurance in Croatia

After a wildfire damaged 15 percent of his grove in Dalmatia, one Croatian farmer explained the crucial role government-subsidized insurance plays for small farmers.
Aug. 18, 2022
Nedjeljko Jusup

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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.

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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.

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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.


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