Istrian Prosciutto Makers Hoping for Better Days Ahead

Total Croatia News

A low number of suitable pigs is the main problem for Istrian prosciutto producers.

Istrian prosciutto with a protected designation of origin produced by the Jelenić family from Sveti Petar u Šumi has recently received a gold medal at the international meat products fair in Stuttgart, Germany, leaving behind much better-known competitors, such as the Jamon Iberica ham from Spain. The Croatian product was so impressive to the jury that it was rated extraordinary by all parameters, receiving a maximum of 50 points, reports Večernji List on November 4, 2017.

But, while this delicacy, which Croatia has registered and protected at the EU level in 2015, is receiving well-deserved international attention, low Croatian pig production and high level of imports represent a double trap for the Istrian prosciutto, whose annual output currently barely reaches 1,500 to 2,000 pieces.

Producer Milan Antolović explains that the Istrian prosciutto cannot be made from imported meat since they are limited to thirteen Croatian counties with pigs carrying a Croatian “passport.” The number of pigs cannot be increased even by importing them from Slovenia, which also has the right to produce the Istrian prosciutto.

Of the 16 prosciutto producers who are members of the Association of Istrian Prosciutto Producers and spent 18 years successfully trying to prove that it should have protected geographical origin, only six of them are still producing prosciutto with the designation of origin – Dujmović, Jelenić, T.O. Kod Milana, Pisinium, Pršuti Milohanić and Milan Antolović.

“The market is unstable, imports are higher than local production, and as we must respect the rules of traceability which do not allow us to use pigs from Germany or Austria. It is not surprising that many producers have ceased operations,” explains Antolović, who believes that the future of production of Istrian prosciutto is still bright. Although pig farming in Slavonia is in crisis, they are cooperating with more and more farmers and hope to found a cluster of producers soon as well.

While increasing the production of the certified prosciutto, Istrians use a similar technique to produce another 30,000 to 35,000 uncertified prosciuttos without traceability, which carry the names of individual producers, instead of the general Istrian Prosciutto name. Still, the annual consumption of prosciuttos in Istria is about 100,000, with restaurant owners often selling subpar products calling them Istrian Prosciutto, which harms the local producers of the real product.

“Thanks to the good cooperation with several Slavonian farmers, Istrian producers could next year produce 10,000 pieces of certified Istrian prosciutto,” Antolović says. They also hope that the Ministry of Agriculture will help them and adopt the legislation to be more favourable to local pigs instead of the imported ones.

President of the Association of Istrian Prosciutto Producers Milan Buršić explains that the raw material prices are twice as high for them than for other producers because the Istrian meat has no skin or subcutaneous fat and a ham must weigh at least 13 kg. This means that pigs for Istrian prosciutto makers at the moment of slaughter have at least 170 kilograms, which demands significant investment in meat buying and taking out loans from banks.

“We are not an industry, but small producers, which people recognise. We would sell a thousand prosciuttos with a certificate if we could produce them. But, we want to reach that number slowly, in order to maintain quality which we have already proven is able to compete with the Spanish Jamon Iberica,” says Jelenić, who produces 150 certified and 2,000 “ordinary” Istrian prosciuttos a year.

Translated from Večernji List.


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