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Plans Ripen for Croatian Citrus, March 2012

Tucked between Split and Dubrovnik in Croatia, the Neretva Valley is the source of exceptional mandarins. The region grows particularly high quality fruit because of the unique characteristics of the land and cultivation techniques; and the producers and entire Neretva region could benefit from a better market recognition of their product. For this reason FAO, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the Croatian Ministry of Agriculture brought together mandarin producers from the Neretva Valley on 5-9 March 2012 to learn about the intricacies and benefits of Geographical Indicators (GIs) from Italian citrus producers. GIs give distinction to a product by recognizing superior and specific characteristics that are directly attributable to its growing region and production process.

The citrus tour began at FAO Headquarters on 5 March with a seminar that introduced the Italian GI experience. On 6 and 7 March the group visited lemon producers on the Amalfi Coast as well as the Association of Producers of the Limone IGP Costa d’Amalfi. “IGP” is the Italian acronym for Protected Geographical Indication (PGI); PGI and Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) are two types of GIs. There are 600 lemon producers in the area, of whom 300 are GI certified. At the Association, producers learned about the history of Amalfi lemons with an emphasis on the success of derivative products, like limoncello, that benefit from the Amalfi GI branding. The Amalfi producers have successfully created a tourism industry around their product as is highlighted by the popular “Lemon Tour” of the lemon terraces. This is an excellent example for the Croatian producers to potentially emulate in Neretva.

On 7 March, the Croatian producers visited the Ente Ceramica Vietrese, a type of GI for ceramics made in Vietri, for another seminar and conversation that emphasized working together to promote the regional identity of a product. The group then attended a technical seminar at the University of Foggia where experts from the Faculty of Agronomy, D.A.Re. (a regional Puglian organization that shares food industry knowledge and technological applications) and Foggia’s Chamber of Commerce discussed topics related to GIs, technical innovations in post-harvest management, and product branding.

On 8 March, the group continued to visit farms, this time in the Gargano Peninsula where they met lemon and orange producers who are members of the region’s two GI Associations, the Arancia del Gargano IGP and the Limone Femminiello del Gargano. On the final day, the Croatian producers went to Taranto to meet with producers of the Clementina del Golfo di Taranto IGP. Here they were able to observe the late harvest of clementines in the field and to interact with producers in their orchards.

The Croatian mandarin producers now have a wealth of valuable information from their Italian counterparts to apply to the Neretva Valley. The mutual interest and willingness to share experiences and pursue this exchange was encouraging. With a new working knowledge of GIs, the Croatians can move toward creating a designation for their mandarins, which are exceptional in part because of the increased salinity of the water supply that makes the irrigation system of the Neretva River unique. The tourist activities surrounding the Italian citrus industry will undoubtedly provide inspiration for diversifying tourism around Neretva mandarins. The region already produces between 30 and 70 thousand tons of these special mandarins per year. The next step is to involve and organize all relevant stakeholder groups in the region and create a code of practice that will formally set Neretva Valley mandarins apart from others.

FAO has long supported the development of the Neretva Valley through the formulation of investments projects in the 60s and 70s that greatly improved the sources of agricultural income in the region. This mandarin GI initiative is undertaken in the context of a wider FAO/EBRD project that promotes GIs in Croatia as a tool for rural development, with support from Agrokor, Croatia’s leading agribusiness company.

In addition to helping Croatian mandarin producers understand the marketing value of GIs, FAO has also worked with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to eliminate the Mediterranean fruit fly from the Neretva Valley through the Sterile Insect Technique (SIT), as this pest was particularly harmful to Neretva mandarins; more information can be seen in the following video.

For study tour documentation, slide show and summary, please click here.

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