Croatia Wants Its Olive Farmers to Organize

The minister of agriculture said cooperatives would help the sector by allowing producers to benefit from financial support and other measures.

Feb. 26, 2020
By Karmela Hromin

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The Croatian agri­cul­ture min­is­ter, Marija Vučković, has announced that the Ministry is work­ing on changes in the bylaws that apply to pro­ducer orga­ni­za­tions.

The admin­is­tra­tion is slow, and the pre­vi­ous con­di­tions were too hard for most pro­duc­ers to meet. But new con­di­tions will be more flex­i­ble.- Radoslav Bobanović, direc­tor of a Croatian coop­er­a­tive of olive oil pro­duc­ers

The goal of the changes is to encour­age farm­ers and pro­duc­ers to cre­ate sec­tor orga­ni­za­tions which, the min­is­ter believes, would help growth and devel­op­ment by allow­ing mem­bers to ben­e­fit from finan­cial sup­port and other mea­sures, and guide them in prepa­ra­tion for ten­ders con­nected to the E.U.‘s Rural Development Program.

While in the E.U. olive farm­ers’ groups were impor­tant in the devel­op­ment of the sec­tor, Croatian olive pro­duc­ers have tra­di­tion­ally resisted orga­niz­ing, and pre­vi­ous attempts to change the sit­u­a­tion have yielded few results.

The rea­sons seem to be the small size of an aver­age pro­ducer and an unwill­ing­ness to team up, lead­ing to a lack of sup­port from the local or national gov­ern­ment.

See Also:The Best Olive Oils from Croatia

The exist­ing cri­te­ria for form­ing agri­cul­tural orga­ni­za­tions have been hard for olive farm­ers to meet. There needs to be a min­i­mum of seven mem­bers, 150 hectares of land, 50 tons of pro­duced oil or 3 mil­lion Croatian Kuna ($437,802) of annual sales income. Seventy-five per­cent of a far­m’s pro­duc­tion needs to go through the orga­ni­za­tion.

Croatian olive farm­ers usu­ally own rel­a­tively small pieces of land and keep a sig­nif­i­cant part of the pro­duced oil for per­sonal con­sump­tion.


There has never been a nation-wide asso­ci­a­tion of olive farm­ers that rep­re­sented their needs, and that has led for­mer agri­cul­ture min­is­ters to, at var­i­ous times, char­ac­ter­ize the olive sec­tor as unim­por­tant, accord­ing to Agrobiz.

As the new code of orga­ni­za­tions is being pre­pared, olive oil pro­duc­ers take dif­fer­ent views of what it can do for them.

Radoslav Bobanović, the direc­tor of a coop­er­a­tive, is opti­mistic. I salute the efforts and the fact that the leg­is­la­ture is work­ing on chang­ing the Code. The admin­is­tra­tion is slow, and the pre­vi­ous con­di­tions were too hard for most pro­duc­ers to meet. But new con­di­tions will be more flex­i­ble,” he said.

Tomislav Najev, an owner of a fam­ily farm, on the other hand, is skep­ti­cal.

I am not an opti­mist when it comes to this. At the age of 54, I count myself among the older olive oil pro­duc­ers, and they have had bad expe­ri­ences with coop­er­a­tives in the past. First, they were forced into coops, and then most of them went bank­rupt, and those that are left are strug­gling finan­cially,” said Najev.

I don’t think olive oil pro­duc­ers are inter­ested in orga­niz­ing. We don’t care, the sys­tem works as it is,” he added. Oil pro­duc­ers get small but depend­able finan­cial back­ing from the gov­ern­ment, which is exempt from taxes. There are no oblig­a­tions and no con­trol. We have also estab­lished good sales chan­nels.”

Bobanović argued there is an untapped poten­tial in the col­lec­tive strength of the coun­try’s smaller pro­duc­ers.

There are cur­rently 10 mil­lion olive trees in Croatia, but I believe there is room for 20 mil­lion more, and the pro­duc­tion is bou­tique — not indus­trial. Istria could form one orga­ni­za­tion — in Dalmatia, there could be three or four orga­ni­za­tions — and each island forms a sep­a­rate orga­ni­za­tion. They could pool their resources, buy equip­ment, trac­tors, an olive mill. They could brand them­selves, and meet E.U. stan­dards.”

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