29 October, 2019
Serbia’s family-owned fruit juice company Nectar has launched a new line of “Life” fruit juices made from Serbia’s famous Arilje raspberries and Oblacinska sour cherry.
The Nectar Group’s General Manager Mihailo Jankovic, speaking at a recent promotional event in Belgrade, noted the company’s reputation as a trendsetter and its commitment to quality.
“We care about the quality and origin of the fruit we use,” he said. “We immediately recognized the value of protecting the origin of the raw material and promoting domestic fruit.”
Both fruits, unique to Serbia, are protected by a Geographical Indication or GI.
Their official certification was years in the making, supported by FAO and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) in partnership with Serbia’s Ministry of Agriculture, the Intellectual Property Office, producers and other national stakeholders.
Around 60 Serbian government, media and industry insiders were on hand for the promotional event, organized by Nectar with support from FAO and the EBRD.
Panellists highlighted the benefits of sourcing GI raw materials to make products that consumers seeking quality, tradition and authenticity want to buy.
The EBRD, which has invested over EUR 700 million in Serbian agriculture, wants to help Serbia “position itself in the world market with quality products, achieve higher prices and become more competitive,” said Miljan Zdrale, Head of EBRD’s Agribusiness Sector for Central and Eastern Europe.
Celebrating authenticity and quality
A GI is a public label that recognizes the clear link between a product and its place of origin – like Parmigiano-Reggiano or Basmati rice.
Qualities related to specific climates, soils, flora and fauna, as well as local know-know, are what give these products their distinctive taste, texture and appearance.
The Arilje raspberry, for example, get its sweet and tangy flavour from the area’s rich and fertile soil as well as a particular method of hand-picking developed by the area’s producers.
The Oblacinska sour cherry, a fixture in Serbian preserves, juices, yogurts and sweets, is famed for its deep red colour, crunch and sweet and sour balance.
Selling products under the GI label can breathe new life into local economies by sparking rural development and creating jobs, especially for young women and men, said FAO Senior Economist Emmanuel Hidier.
It can also make agrifood systems more inclusive by bringing more small-scale producers into the supply chain and linking them up with bigger companies, like Nectar. And it can protect local biodiversity and local knowledge and instil community pride.
Agritourism is another potential spin-off.
“Countries like Italy and France have built thriving tourist industries around their celebrated culinary heritages, gastronomy and natural beauty, and we believe that Serbia has the potential to do the same with its high-quality food,” Hidier said, adding that the annual global turnover for GI products is about EUR 50 billion.
People increasingly want to know where their food comes from, how it was produced, if it is safe, ethical and environmentally sustainable.
The GI label means that a product is certified, meeting a rigorous set of specifications agreed to by the producers and guaranteed by the State.
Mirjana Milutinovic, Secretary of the Arilje Raspberry Association, said her Association’s main goal is to “preserve the reputation of our raspberry, which has a long tradition.”
The Association, which has over 100 growers producing 500 tonnes of Arilje raspberries per year, conducts internal quality controls.
“We want our Arilje raspberry to be known worldwide,” she said. “Thanks to the certification system, consumers know they are purchasing a top-quality traditional product produced in a certain area.”
Serbia is keen to promote its rich food heritage on a bigger stage –and GI labels can help.
“Oblačinska cherry, Ariljska raspberry, Sjenica cheese, Futog cabbage – these are part of the intellectual property of Serbia,” said Senad Mahmutovic, State Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture.
GIs can give producers an edge in the market, he said, as people are often willing to pay a higher price for products that come with a story.
“The Ministry recognizes these global trends and will continue to work with our partners to further protect GI products,” he added.
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