Promoting traditional products: Montenegrin meat producers learn from Croatia and Italy, November 2016Promoting traditional products: Montenegrin meat producers learn from Croatia and Italy, November 2016

01 November, 2016

Ensuring the highest level of quality and food safety standards in the meat sector are key to differentiate the Montenegrin product and to remain competitive and expand into the European Union market.

In August, FAO and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) organized a study tour to Croatia and Italy for Montenegrin meat producers and processors, as well as representatives from the Ministry of Agriculture and industry associations. The tour was part of a larger joint FAO and EBRD initiative, supported by Luxembourg, to help Montenegro upgrade food safety and quality standards in its meat sector.

Over four days, the group travelled throughout Croatia’s Istria and Italy’s Friuli-Venezia Giulia regions, meeting with meat, wine, dairy and olive oil producers, rural development agencies and local authorities. They learned how these two regions promote their traditional products, ensuring high quality standards and using origin-based labels, such as Geographical Indications (GIs) and regional quality labels, to give their goods a competitive edge, especially on the local tourism market.

Linking with tourism

Local cuisine and high-quality products are very attractive to tourists, driving the growth and development of rural communities. Montenegro and Croatia have an agriculture sector dominated by small farms plus a growing tourism sector.

The delegates saw first-hand how Croatian and Italian producers have managed to link up with the tourism industry, marketing their goods locally and also for export. Istria has been particularly successful in building tourism around traditional agricultural products.

“One-third of Croatia’s tourism and half of its agritourism facilities are located in Istria, which is a great opportunity for producers of traditional food products,” said Jelena Dugum, Senior Adviser Specialist in Croatia’s Ministry of Agriculture.

Improving quality and marketability

Over the last three years, FAO and the EBRD have been supporting improved food quality and safety standards in the Serbian meat sector, and developing a public meat quality label. They have also supported the development and registration of GIs in Serbia, Georgia, Macedonia and Croatia. In Croatia, FAO’s and EBRD’s joint efforts led to the registration of the first two Croatian GIs at the European Union level: Kulen sausage from the Baranja region and mandarins from the Neretva.

“We work with private sector companies by providing financing and supporting the transfer of know-how.” said Miljan Zdrale, Regional Head of Agribusiness for Central and South-Eastern Europe, EBRD. “Regional experience shows that improving quality standards and labelling not only stimulate local production but also help agribusinesses tap into new markets.”

The two institutions are now building on this regional experience with quality and origin-based labels to assist Montenegrin producers in developing two GIs for traditional beef and sheep meat specialties, which are recognized for their distinctive qualities.

For Bekim Hadzalic, a food technology expert from the meat processing company Franca, the study tour “provided inspiration for the development of a stronger traceability and labelling system in Montenegro.”

Gojko Babovic, a senior livestock adviser from the University of Montenegro’s Livestock Selection Service, added that the Association of Meat Producers in Montenegro will take “a proactive approach to developing origin-based labels, using its members’ own resources.”

In that regard, the examples of the Istrian quality label and the San Daniele emblem imprinted on prosciutto were particularly inspiring.

Ensuring strong commitment

The tour also illustrated that a good institutional framework and strong partnerships between producers and local authorities are key to boosting the competitiveness of local meat products.

Snezana Maslavaric Zecevic, a project officer with the Regional Development Agency for the municipalities of Bjelasica, Komovi and Prokletije, said that the accomplishments of Istria’s Agency for Rural Development, which promotes Istrian agricultural products and protects indigenous breeds, are “proof of what can be accomplished with a long-term strategy paired with incredible competence.”
Montenegro is a candidate for European Union membership. Being exposed to the experiences of neighbouring Italy, a long-time member of the European Union with a strong tradition of territorial development, and Croatia, a recent member with a buoyant agritourism sector, opened the eyes of Montenegrin producers and government officials alike.

“With modest investment, good will and persistence, Montenegro can successfully replicate similar successes to that of Croatia or Italy,” said Milos Kusovac, a senior adviser to Montenegro’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.

Improving the capacity of local producers to register and promote the first two GIs in Montenegro is a step in the right direction. Once that happens, it will open the door for other traditional products in the meat and other sectors to garner international recognition.

FAO/EBRD efforts in Montenegro are contributing to FAO’s strategic objective to enable inclusive and efficient agricultural and food systems

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EastAgri is supported by FAO, EBRD, and The World Bank