Record Harvest in Herzegovina Heralds Expansion of Olive Growing in Western Balkans

Herzegovina produced 280,000 liters of olive oil. Officials plan to triple the amount of land dedicated to olive growing in the coming years.
Dragan Mikulić
Nov. 9, 2022
Nedjeljko Jusup

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Olive grow­ing in Bosnia and Herzegovina has great poten­tial, espe­cially in Herzegovina, the south­ern­most and smaller of the two regions, where this year’s olive har­vest is end­ing.

The crop is bet­ter than last year. The fruits are healthy,” Mirko Škegro, an award-win­ning olive oil pro­ducer and wine­maker, told Olive Oil Times.

His groves com­prise 600 olive trees, of which 50 to 60 are already bear­ing fruit. From these trees, he has received 250 liters of extra vir­gin olive oil.

See Also:2022 Harvest Updates

I picked olives when one-third of the fruit on the trees was green, the sec­ond third was mot­tled, and the third was black,” Škegro said.

His Žilavka and Blatina wines reg­u­larly win medals at Decanter in London. In addi­tion, his Krš extra vir­gin olive oil, crafted from Oblica and other autochtho­nous vari­eties, has won con­sec­u­tive awards at the NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition.

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I go to the most rec­og­nized com­pe­ti­tions,” Škegro said. In New York, my oils have been awarded five times in a row, and I hope for a sixth as well.”

The Škegro fam­ily farm is located in the hills of west­ern Herzegovina in the town of Radišići, between 132 and 312 meters above sea level and less than 30 miles from the Adriatic Sea.

The area is a local hotspot for endemic bio­di­ver­sity, par­tially due to the com­bi­na­tion of the Mediterranean and con­ti­nen­tal cli­mates, result­ing in hot days and cold nights that suits both vines and olives.

The olives are imme­di­ately processed in the mod­ern mill of the Kiwi Oil Company, owned by Dragan Mikulić, who has the largest olive grove in Herzegovina with 7,000 trees, com­prised of mostly Oblica, along with Istarska Bjelica, Buža, Leccino and Pendolino at 220 meters above sea level.

Mikulić, like most other olive grow­ers in Herzegovina, is more than sat­is­fied with this year’s har­vest. We just fin­ished har­vest­ing,” he said.

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Dragan Mikulić

Mikulić said this har­vest was crazy” and required 100 peo­ple to har­vest more than 200 tons of fruit dur­ing three con­sec­u­tive weeks. Growers yielded about 25 tons of extra vir­gin olive oil from these fruits.

With this year’s boun­ti­ful har­vest as evi­dence, Mikulić asserted that Herzegovina is ideal for olive grow­ing. We have water, plenty of sun and winds that ben­e­fit the olive trees,” he said.

Despite the drought, the har­vest was excep­tional. The olives were healthy. There were no moths or olive fruit flies, and the crop was up to three times larger than last year’s, espe­cially in irri­gated olive groves.

When it’s a dry year, the grapes and olive oil always are of bet­ter qual­ity,” Mikulić said.

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Mikulić’s grove

He has two 300-meter-deep wells in his olive grove, from which he draws water into pools and irri­gates all his trees with a drip sys­tem. Without water, there is no olive grow­ing,” Mikulić said.

The pro­ducer also expects the qual­ity of this year’s oils will be excel­lent. However, he added that prices would rise despite the record har­vest.

Branded extra vir­gin olive oil will sell for 40 Convertible Marks (€20.45), the local cur­rency, per liter.
The price increases come from sig­nif­i­cant increases in pro­duc­tion costs. As they are else­where, these cost increases are dri­ven by infla­tion and ris­ing energy prices.

As a result, labor, equip­ment, milling, pack­ag­ing mate­r­ial and even label­ing costs have more than dou­bled com­pared to last year.

See Also:Herzegovian Farmer Looks to Keep Momentum After New York Win

Nevertheless, Mikulić believes he will sell all the extra vir­gin olive oil pro­duced this year. It will end up mostly abroad through pri­vate chan­nels as an extremely desir­able and high-qual­ity del­i­cacy,” he said.

Due to its prox­im­ity to the shrine in Medjugorje, a pop­u­lar tourist des­ti­na­tion, Mikulić said he sells plenty of his olive oil to the vis­i­tors.

Quite a few also visit Mikulić’s mill, olive grove and tast­ing room. They buy olive oil that ends up on the tables of Germany, Poland, the Czech Republic and other non-olive-oil-pro­duc­ing European coun­tries.

Overall, there are seven olive mills in Herzegovina – Mikulić’s mill, another two in Ljubuško and Čapljina, three much smaller ones and a large mill that recently opened in Neum.

We are tak­ing big steps for­ward,” Marko Ivanković, direc­tor of the Federal Agro-Mediterranean Institute in Mostar, the regional cap­i­tal, told Olive Oil Times.

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Marko Ivanković

In the past decade, the num­ber of olive trees in Herzegovina has increased from 6,000 to 115,000, spread over 350 hectares. Twenty thou­sand new trees were planted in 2022 alone.

Ivanković said this was the most sig­nif­i­cant increase in olive cul­ti­va­tion in any European Mediterranean coun­try.

However, he added that there is still room for expan­sion, with plans to increase pro­duc­tion to meet local demand. Bosnia and Herzegovina con­sume about 850,087 liters per annum, 0.24 liters per capita.

Currently, most of the 280,000 liters of olive oil pro­duced in the coun­try are exported. Annual olive oil exports are val­ued at €20,060, while imports cost €1,996,769.

Ivanković said the medium-term goal for the coun­try’s olive sec­tor is to expand the groves from the cur­rent 350 to 1,000 hectares.

We will con­tinue to pro­mote the daily con­sump­tion of olive oil as the health­i­est food and encour­age per capita con­sump­tion,” he said.

Future research at the insti­tute will focus on research­ing the role of olive oil as a func­tional food, accord­ing to Commission Regulation (EU) No 432/2012, which says, olive oil polyphe­nols con­tribute to the pro­tec­tion of blood lipids from oxida­tive stress.”

To this end, an offi­cial panel for organolep­tic assess­ment of vir­gin olive oils and a national olive oil pro­ducer asso­ci­a­tion has been autho­rized.

Together with the increase in the num­ber of com­mer­cial pro­duc­ers of olive oil and the increase in pro­cess­ing capac­ity (oil mills), there is an effort to pro­tect the geo­graph­i­cal ori­gin of olive oil,” Ivanković con­cluded.

He is con­vinced that olive grow­ing in Bosnia and Herzegovina will con­tinue to progress.


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