15 March, 2018
Serbia has a dynamic horticulture industry. But with increased competition from the European Union, Serbian producers need to find ways to get an edge in the market, both at home and abroad.
Recently the country’s renowned Oblačinka from Oblačina sour cherry and Arilje raspberry received geographical indication (GI) status in line with new regulations – a move that could breathe new life into the local economy.
A GI is a public label that recognizes the clear link between a high-quality product and its place of origin – think Parmigiano-Reggiano or Champagne, for example.
It is shorthand for quality, local heritage, authenticity, and reputation; consumers, faced with many choices, often are willing to pay a premium for such guarantees.
The two Serbian GIs were several years in the making, the result of a project by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).
FAO and the EBRD worked closely with Serbia’s Ministry of Agriculture and Environmental Protection, the Intellectual Property Office, farmers, and processors to develop, register, and implement the GIs – from organizing training workshops and study tours to developing codes of practice and registering GI management organizations.
“A successful GI can give a boost to a local region,” said FAO senior economist Emmanuel Hidier. “By selling certified products under the GI label, producers, many of them small family farmers, can tap into new markets and earn higher wages. At the same time, consumers know that what they are buying is authentic and of high quality.”
Strength in collective action
The Oblačinka from Oblačina, a type of sour cherry grown in southern Serbia and named after the village of Oblačina, is famed for its deep red colour and balance of sweet and sour, which it owes to the area’s soil and climate.
It is a fixture in local cuisine, consumed dried or made into preserves, juices, yoghurt, liqueurs and sweets.
It was also the first single-variety fresh fruit in Serbia to receive national GI status in line with European Union standards.
Slobodan Todorović is President of the Oblačinka from Oblačina Association of producers and processors responsible for protecting and promoting the certified sour cherry.
The initiative originated in Serbia’s Merosina municipality, he said, and the association has expanded to involve cherry farmers from other municipalities in the Oblačina sour cherry production area.
“Now more people will be able to reap the benefits of the GI, and the GI will be stronger thanks to the coordinated action among farmers,” he said. “We’re encouraging members to develop and market new products under the GI label, including dried cherries and products made with organic cherries.”
Raspberry producers in Serbia’s Arilje region have developed the so-called Arilje growing method, which involves removing the first batch of shoots, allowing for greater sunlight exposure.
This method and the area’s favourable agro-climatic conditions give the Arilje raspberry its distinctive sweet and tangy flavour.
Boasting more than 100 cold storage facilities, the region produces over 30,000 tonnes of berries a year – with the bulk sold on the global market. The city of Arilje even hosts an annual cultural festival at the time of raspberry picking, attracting tourists from Serbia and abroad.
While the raspberries have traditionally been frozen after being hand-picked, they are now also being sold fresh or dried.
“A GI can really strengthen the entire supply chain, building trust between local producers, processors and retailers, and ultimately consumers,” said Slobodan Obradovic, president of the Association Ariljska Malina.
The goal now is to manage and protect these two new GIs and get more of these high-quality products onto shelves.
Meanwhile, Kopaonik ajvar – a pepper paste made exclusively from peppers from the nearby municipalities of Trstenik and Aleksandrovac – is another Serbian product on track to be certified.
Read how Serbia steps up partnership with FAO and EBRD for stronger agriculture here.
See the project page on Serbia: Developing Origin Based Labels in the Horticultural Sector here.
See a study tour on Geographical Indications here.
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