Croatia’s Chamber of Agriculture has claimed that the country’s farmers owe huge amounts to the EU due to the misuse of funding set aside for organic agriculture. Total Croatia News reports that the Agricultural Ministry later denied all allegations, while admitting some “irregularities” existed in EU-back funding for organic farming which were quickly weeded out.
The accusations first surfaced when Chamber of Agriculture Vice President, Antun Vrankić, bemoaned the poor state of eastern Croatia’s farming sector. An EU inspection found that only 2% of the incentives paid for organic farming was justified, with 98% being false, amounting to €400 million, which the EU is now demanding be returned. Farmers are being asked to share the cost equally as an act of solidarity.
In response, Agriculture Minister, Marija Vucković, called the accusations “untested and completely inaccurate” in a lengthy statement pushing back against Vrankić’s claims.
Vrakić is concerned about Croatia’s ability to feed itself at this critical time, with self-sufficiency falling below 40%.
European Commission says additional targeted support measures cover mandarins
About half of all mandarin exports from Croatia’s Neretva Valley ended up in Russia, last year. This year a record harvest of 80,000 tons is expected but many growers risk going bust due to the combined effects of the Russian embargo and an already difficult economic context, according to Croatian member of the European Parliament Davor Ivo Stier (PPE).
Stier said it will be hard for them to find alternative markets in a short period. The total value of the mandarin market in Croatia is roughly €50 million and an estimated 10,000 people there depend on mandarins as a main or additional source of income.
“A large amount of money has been invested up to this point in production materials,” Stier said. “As a result of these investments and of people’s hard work, this year it was anticipated that revenues for the sector would amount to €30‐40 million. However, Russia’s embargo, coupled with an already‐difficult economic situation, could result in many mandarin producers collapsing.”
In answer to Stier’s questions about the mandarin growers’ eligibility for exceptional support from the EU agricultural crisis fund for the effects of the Russian sanctions, Agriculture Commissioner Dacian Cioloş said on behalf of the Commission that there is now support for mandarin growers.
Support for citrus producers was not included in its initial exceptional market support measures. “However, the Commission has prepared additional targeted support measures for fruit and vegetables hit by the Russian ban taking into account new harvest and export seasons. The new measures include mandarins and (were) published on 30 September,” Cioloş said.