Building up after fall of Yugoslavia and war in the 1990´s:
Croatian apple producer picking up what predecessors started
Although larger scale developments in apple production in Croatia might seem like a recent development, the potential was actually evident as far back as 1950, after it was clear that the micro-climate in the country was excellent for fruit production. Being located 200 metres above sea level gives the area warmer winds, which reduces the risks of spring frosts, like those which were seen all throughout Europe last year.
Seeing the potential, a company called PIK Suhopolje decided, around 68 years ago, to develop orchards and vineyards in the Ljeskovac region in Suhopoljska Borova. Unfortunately, the collapse of Yugoslavia and the war in Croatia brought a stop to many agricultural companies, including PIK Suhopolje, which left abandoned orchards and vineyards to be overrun by nature from the late 1990´s onward.
"In 2011, the Ministry of Agriculture in Croatia announced a public tender for the long-term lease of this land, and after visiting the old PIK Suhopolje sight, I looked beyond the ruin and saw the great agricultural potential the land possessed. After obtaining public tender in 2013, we started the long-term task of reclaiming the devastated land for what it was originally intended - fruit production," shared Ivan Obrovac from Brana d.o.o.
The company has since invested a lot of financial resources in clearing, field plowing, primary soil treatments, and long-lasting crop cultivation to improve the general top soil quality to regain optimal fertility.
"After Croatia joined the EU, we were able to apply for an EU grant from the Rural Development Funds, to co-finance the construction of the orchard. The tender was published in early 2015, and Brana d.o.o. successfully passed the test, but we were forced to wait almost two years for a decision. Ultimately, we can thank the current Ministry of Agriculture, led by minister Mr. Tomislav Tolušić, for the realization of this project," Ivan explained.
"We went to work as soon as the decision was reached, by developing and planting a new 6 hectare apple plantation, along with preparing an additional 15 ha of land for future orchards. Our current apple orchard has around 26,000 trees of different varieties, including Fuji, Red Delicious and Gala," Ivan said.
The orchards are located on Bilogora hill near Suhopolje, at nearly 200 metres above sea level, which means that there is almost always a breeze, protecting the orchards from frost. Another advantage to its location, is that the orchards are protected from cross contamination from pesticides since production location is separated by forests and there is no other agricultural activities within a mile.
"Once we are at full capacity, we estimate a potential to produce 400-500 tons of apples annually. There is a tremendous potential for fruit growing in Croatia and I am hoping that others will follow and start producing on other locations where arable land has been abandoned in the past. I hope that there continue to be companies and individuals who are willing to invest in launching our sleepy sector, giving us the potential to be a leader in agricultural production."
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Publication date: 3/6/2018
Author: Heather Wicks
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