On 3 May 2017, “Food Quality Schemes, Protected Designation of Origin, Geographic Indication, and Traditional Specialities Guaranteed” forum, organised by the Croatian Agricultural Agency, was held in the Croatian Chamber of Economy in Zagreb within the framework of implementation of the GRASS Croatia – Growth of Rural Areas and Agriculture for Successful Society project, co-financed by the European Commission. The forum aimed at acquainting future, as well as present, farmers with marketing skills and use of EU food quality marks which may assist in sale of agricultural products.
The forum was opened by the deputy director dipl. ing. Robert Bakota, who greeted present members of the media and acquainted them with the GRASS Croatia project and announced lecturers on the topic of “Food Quality Schemes, Protected Designation of Origin, Geographic Indication, and Traditional Specialities Guaranteed”.
The first lecturer at the forum was Ivan Ciprijan, dipl. ing. from the Ministry of Agriculture who presented the Measure 3 – Quality Systems for Agricultural and Food Products within the framework of the Rural Development Programme of the Republic of Croatia in 2014 – 2020.
Dipl. ing. Karmen Sinković, head of the Service for Special Markings and Promotion of Food pointed out that 82 % of products bearing the designation of origin or geographic indication are sold in the market of the country of origin, which is, in Croatia, a result of tourism, while 13 % is sold at the EU market.
She added that the indigenous farm and food products whose names are protected achieve, on average, higher prices. Today, consumers seek quality, special, and indigenous products – Sinković said – adding that we may be proud of 15 Croatian products which bear the designation of origin or geographic indication at the EU level, while registration is in progress for seven further products and in preparation for 20 others at the EU level.
Ana Marušić Lisac, dipl. ing. from Biotechnicon d.o.o. spoke about food quality control in practice and certification of farm products. Certification of products is a voluntary activity which allows producers to communicate specific properties of their products to their customers and consumers which set them apart from similar products.
By communicating those advantages, the producers improve reputation and market position of their products and therefore the certification may indirectly help products to respond to demands of modern consumers and traders. In this way, it signifies more than quality and safety alone – it opens up the market. Namely, only those protected products which have been certified may be found in the market and no other entity may use the protected designation.
Successful examples of production involving the quality system designations were presented in the second part of the forum.
Tomislav Rukavina, dr. vet. med., the president of the Sheep Breeder Association “Lika” described the path to protection of Lika lamb meat by means of the quality designation. In the course of the seven years needed to protect the product, the greatest problem were funds – Rukavina pointed out. As soon as protection was obtained at the national level, the Association started organised sales of Lika lamb. Those successes quickly spread throughout Lika. Producers submit increasing numbers of requests for Association membership and participation in the organised sales of Lika lamb on the market – Rukavina said.
Ante Čemeljić, president of the “Rogujica” Pag sheep breeders’ association also described the path to obtaining of the quality designation. On 5 October 2016, the European Commission finally announced its decision to protect the product “Pag lamb” using the protected designation of origin in all European Union Member States. This was a great moral satisfaction for everyone involved in the process, as the objective was met after many ups and downs – Čemeljić said.
Our aim is to protect originality of the Soparnik, taste and traditional method of preparation of this dish. Therefore we started the procedure for its registration under the geographic indication allowing its legal production – said Petar Rodić, vice-president of the “Poljički Soparnik” association.
Young generations will be given an incentive to return to the countryside because the opportunity to earn a living through preparation of this traditional dish also allows them to live in the countryside. Therefore preparation and sales of this dish from Poljica is significant for sustainable development of rural tourism. It is significant for preservation of this indigenous dish because it contains national recognisability and cultural heritage of the area of Poljica.
The forum concluded with the lecture of mr. sc. Milan Husnjak, dr. vet. med. who presented PLAID-Peer-to-Peer Learning: Accessing innovation trough demonstration EU project. This project aims to provide incentive to production of food under protected designation of origin through knowledge transfer and establishment of a network of model farms for various types of agricultural production.
The topics were more than interesting if one listens to challenges faced by present-day farmers who say that it is not a problem to produce food in Croatia, but that it is hard to sell the food and charge fair value for it.