Bureaucracy Hampers Expansion of Olive Oil Production in Croatia, Producer Warns

Award-winning producer Marijana Podrug sees increased production and tourism potential in Croatia but said government bureaucracy is getting in the way.
OPG Podrug
Nov. 28, 2022
Nedjeljko Jusup

A grow­ing num­ber of Croatian women are suc­cess­fully engaged in olive grow­ing. Among them is Marijana Podrug from Piramatovac, a pic­turesque town in cen­tral Dalmatia.

Podrug is the owner of OPG Podrug, which com­prises 1,600 olive trees from five to 150 years old on seven hectares.

The prob­lem is that the olives are scat­tered in 25 olive groves in as many dif­fer­ent loca­tions. But you can do any­thing when you want,” Podrug told Olive Oil Times.

See Also:Producer Profiles

With the help of her hus­band, Denis, chil­dren, Sara and Dino, mother-in-law, Marica, and fam­ily friends, Podrug is com­plet­ing this year’s har­vest with a shaker in hand.

The har­vest is excel­lent, and the fruits are healthy. It’s a plea­sure to pick them,” she said.

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Podrug started pick­ing at the begin­ning of October and con­tin­ued to har­vest daily through the first half of November. The fruits were trans­formed at the Laća Oil Company in Skradinski Polje on the same day.

We are sat­is­fied with the yield and qual­ity,” she said. This year, we received 40 tons. The oils are all extra vir­gin. Along with spici­ness and mild bit­ter­ness, aro­mas and fruiti­ness are expressed.”

OPG Podrug has earned var­i­ous awards at inter­na­tional olive oil com­pe­ti­tions, includ­ing a Silver Award at the 2022 NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition, the world’s largest olive oil qual­ity com­pe­ti­tion.

Our oils have won for two years in a row,” she said, adding that the awards have led to increased demand for her olive oils, which are sold at the fam­ily shop.

The awards are the lat­est chap­ter in the ongo­ing evo­lu­tion of the fam­ily com­pany, of which Podrug took con­trol eight years ago.

My father-in-law, Milan, founded it about 17 years ago,” she said. I took it over and mod­ern­ized it with funds from the European Union’s rural devel­op­ment pro­gram.”

Before tak­ing the reigns of OPG Podrug, Podrug pre­vi­ously man­aged another small busi­ness.

I had a store for moms and babies, and my hus­band worked in a print shop as a graphic designer,” she said. Additionally, we had a fam­ily stand sell­ing fruit and veg­eta­bles, where my father-in-law and mother-in-law worked, and my hus­band and I pro­cured goods for them.”

When she took over OPG Podrug, Podrug and her hus­band devoted them­selves to work­ing on the prop­erty full-time.

europe-profiles-production-the-best-olive-oils-bureaucracy-hampers-expansion-of-olive-oil-production-in-croatia-producer-warns-olive-oil-times

Marijana and Denis Podrug

The cou­ple suc­cess­fully applied for a small busi­ness loan and received 380,000 Kuna (€50,000). With this and money from their own busi­ness, they bought new equip­ment and con­verted all their farm­land – includ­ing vines, fruit trees and a veg­etable gar­den – to organic cul­ti­va­tion.

Along with extra vir­gin olive oil, Podrug uses other fruits to make cakes, jams and mar­malades. She also pro­duces sauer­kraut and sauces from the cucum­bers, pep­pers and toma­toes she grows.

She sells all of these prod­ucts at the fam­ily shop near the entrance of Krka National Park. As a result of the loca­tion, the fam­ily sells to plenty of tourists vis­it­ing the park.

We have good con­di­tions for devel­op­ing olive tourism,” Podrug said.

See Also:Despite Drought, Croatia Enjoys Fruitful Harvest

Her efforts to pro­duce olive oil have not gone unno­ticed. Three years ago, Podrug was rec­og­nized for her entre­pre­neur­ship and awarded as run­ner-up on International Day of Rural Women, which coin­cided with World Food Day.

europe-profiles-production-the-best-olive-oils-bureaucracy-hampers-expansion-of-olive-oil-production-in-croatia-producer-warns-olive-oil-times

Marijana Podrug recognized on International Day of Rural Women

She has no short­age of ideas and plans to start host­ing olive oil tast­ings at the farm to pro­mote olive oil tourism.

The near­est tast­ing room is in Vodice, 20 kilo­me­ters away,” Podrug said, adding that she also wants to host tours of the groves.

However, before expand­ing her oper­a­tions, Podrug requires more cap­i­tal, which has been dif­fi­cult to obtain.

Unfortunately, this is the third year of wait­ing, and the bureau­cracy is play­ing with my life,” she said.

To ensure the suc­cess of her farm for future gen­er­a­tions, Podrug also wants to pur­chase more land and plant more olive trees. However, the nec­es­sary paper­work to buy the land has also been very slow and logis­ti­cally chal­leng­ing.

As a result of what Podrug con­sid­ers to be an inef­fi­cient bureau­cracy, she said the coun­try is full of dead cap­i­tal,” more than one mil­lion hectares of uncul­ti­vated land in Croatia.

She believes that if even a small part of this land were to be cul­ti­vated, it would be pos­si­ble to dras­ti­cally increase Croatian olive oil pro­duc­tion, allow­ing the coun­try to meet domes­tic demand of about 1.5 liters per capita annu­ally.

According to offi­cial data, there are 3,748,705 olive trees in Croatia that pro­duce 3,000 to 4,500 tons of olive oil each year. However, unof­fi­cial fig­ures are much higher – some say almost three times higher than the offi­cial sta­tis­tics.

Podrug believes increas­ing pro­duc­tion would elim­i­nate the need to import cheaper olive oils, which she said hurts local pro­duc­ers.

She asserted that many imported olive oils are of lower qual­ity – even adul­ter­ated – and urged the min­istry to con­duct qual­ity analy­ses of imports to con­firm this.

Although we are not self-suf­fi­cient in the pro­duc­tion of olive oils and can­not match the quan­ti­ties and prices of large pro­duc­ers, we have a qual­ity that we are proud of,” she said.

Podrug points to the per­for­mance of Croatian pro­duc­ers at the 2022 NYIOOC as evi­dence.

Croatians earned 96 awards from 112 entries, mak­ing the coun­try the third most suc­cess­ful in terms of total awards and the joint most suc­cess­ful in terms of win­ning per­cent­age for any coun­try that sub­mit­ted more than three oils.


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