Geographical indications (GIs) are a sign used on high-quality goods that are linked to their specific geographical origin through terroir or tradition. GIs have emerged as an important instrument of intellectual property protection and have become an important part of agricultural policy making in many countries, with approximately 10 000 GIs registered worldwide at an estimated annual trade value of USD 50 billion. In Croatia, two unique products were identified by FAO and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) to pave the way for the development of GIs in the country: Kulen sausage from the Baranja region and mandarins from the Neretva valley.
The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) called on FAO’s technical expertise on GI development to implement a technical assistance project that aimed to strengthen the capacity of institutions responsible for GIs in Croatia, support the creation of GIs for the two above-mentioned products, and to offer new marketing opportunities to local producers. These efforts were made in close cooperation with small-scale producers, the Croatian Ministry of Agriculture (MoA), and Agrokor - the largest agribusiness group in Croatia
In November 2010, EBRD, with the support of its Shareholder Special Fund, called upon FAO’s technical expertise on GI development to strengthen the capacity of institutions responsible for GIs in Croatia and to support the creation of GIs for the two above-mentioned products. The successful project is the result of the joint efforts of FAO, EBRD, the Croatian agribusiness company Agrokor and the Croatian Ministry of Agriculture (MoA), in close cooperation with small-holder farmers and producers.
Since 2005, the MoA has lead the protection and promotion of GIs; and in 2009 amendments were introduced to harmonize existing regulations with EU legislation. By bringing together the MoA and Agrokor and connecting them with local producers, EBRD and FAO were able to build on the existing momentum and work to improve backward linkages between Agrokor and its agricultural suppliers, strengthen public-private interactions, support the development of stronger local brands to enhance the rural economy, and raise the importance of quality in consumers’ choices. This, in turn, has also spurred other stakeholders to work more actively on promotion and registration of other potential GI products in Croatia and the region.
The primary aims of the project included: increasing the awareness of stakeholders at national and local level on importance of developing GI products; strengthening interactions between local agro-industry, farmers and government authorities for the development of sustainable GIs; enhancing role and capacity of local administration in supporting GI registration and protection; increasing consumer awareness on Croatia GIs in domestic and export niche markets;paving the way for local farmer organizations to market/promote origin-based products of quality.
The kulen was successfully registered as a protected geographical indication (PGI) in July 2012 and the mandarin achieved protected designation of origin (PDO) status, which has even stricter requirements than the PGI, in September 2013.
in 2015, two unique products were supported by FAO and EBRD and received full EU registration in the case of the mandarins from the Neretva valley and Kulen sausage from the Baranja region which will allow them to expand their export markets.
The registration of these GIs goes beyond just two products, which are expected to serve as examples in the region. Producers of similar goods in the Balkans have already initiated the GI registration process. As international recognition builds, farmers will be able to hold on to tradition and culture while seeing their investments grow.