It is the youngest member of the European Union having ascended in 2013 but already Croatia is boosting its agricultural industry with investment and sourcing of new export markets. A group of 20 European agricultural journalists have just completed a five day tour around Croatian farms and agri-businesses. The first ever ENAJ trip to Croatia, it was hosted by the Croatian Agricultural Journalist Association (CAJA).
Croatia may be a small country but its agriculture is diverse as the group found out taking in visits to a fish farm, small and large dairy farms, olive farms as well as a cheese making factory.
Plus, to top the trip, some of the group members were interviewed on a special broadcast of the oldest radio show for farmers on Croatia Radio which was celebrating its 70th anniversary.
Although Croatian farmers are still adapting to the rules and red tape governed by the Common Agricultural Policy, they are thriving in terms of quality agricultural production and increased exports are materialising.
With 157,000 farms, the average farm size in Croatia is around ten hectares and the subsidies delivered by Brussels are vital to ensure these small farmers can survive.
The tour circled around three regions including central Dalmatia known for the Mediterranean production of fish, olive oil and wine; central Croatia dominated by livestock and fruit production and Slavonia in the east where the majority of the larger farms are based.
Although the farms are enjoying investment with Rural Development funds, they are also facing the challenges of cheap imports since joining the European Union.
An interview with Croatian MEP Marijana Petir was very informative on what she and fellow politicians are doing to preserve the small family farming structure in Croatia and also outlining how EU membership may help them expand.
This particular ENAJ tour has been one of the most enlightening in terms of how the Croatian farmers are settling into life in the European Union and also highlighting the challenges they already face.