Kutjevo Continued Working at Full Capacity Despite Lockdown

Lauren Simmonds



As Novac/Matea Grbac writes on the 19th of May, 2020, although the domestic and world economies are gradually opening up again, and people’s lives are returning to a slightly altered sort of normalcy, the Croatian economy is still far from out of the woods. Kutjevo has set job preservation as one of its main strategic goals in these strange times.

In these moments of crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic, preserving jobs has become the biggest challenge for each and every employer. Day by day, we’re witnessing the devastating statistics on the growth in the number of unemployed people, of which there are currently just over 160,000 in terms of the Croatian labour market.

In addition to those who simply lost their jobs practically overnight, more and more workers are on the state-guaranteed minimum wage introduced by the Croatian Government in a package of economic measures designed to keep the Croatian economy’s proverbial head above the water. Despite the uncertainty and the fact that it is already clear that the plans for this year are one thing, and their actual implementation is something else, one of the most important agricultural producers in Croatia, Kutjevo, has set job preservation as one of the main strategic short-term and long-term business goals. It is for this reason that the Kutjevo winery has no intentions of encroaching on the rights of 622 employees.

”We have 593 full-time employees and 29 part-time ones. Preserving their jobs while also preserving financial stability and uninterrupted production processes is our business priority because the main seasonal work and preparations for harvest that awaits us at the end of August take place on arable land and on vineyards,” explained Kutjevo Management Board member, Dino Galić.

He pointed out that for now, they have applied only for job preservation measures and that workers’ salaries have not been adjusted, but kept at the level they were at before the coronavirus pandemic hit the country, in order to preserve their standards and the respective household budgets of Kutjevo’s employees, a move they’re extremely (and rightfully) proud of.

”So far, we haven’t utilised any of the other measures offered by the Croatian Government to businesses. We believe that as a large system, we have a responsibility to all public and private institutions to fulfill all of our obligations on time. Of course, as long as the financial construction of the business allows that to happen. We’re actively monitoring the development of the situation and we’re being informed and consulting with all of the relevant institutions regarding possible frameworks and support on a daily basis,” he emphasised.

In addition to its workers, Kutjevo also takes care of a large subcontracting base within which it has contracted cooperation with as many as 242 farms that take care of a massive 370 hectares of vineyards. Therefore, this well known Croatian company is constantly trying to make consumers aware of the importance of buying and consuming domestic products above all, thus indirectly providing support to the survival of Croatia’s many producers.

Kutjevo has stated that even during these economically trying times, they still worked at full capacity and that due to the nature of the work, most of their employees still came to work physically as normal.

”Since we’re a company whose primary activity is agricultural production, we worked at full capacity, of course, in compliance with all of the prescribed measures of the National Civil Protection Headquarters in order to protect the health of our employees at the maximum level. I must also point out the contribution of all of our colleagues who, through their efforts and hard work, ensured that work taking place with field crops and in vineyards was done within the given deadlines,” he emphasised, adding that like many other companies across the country, office work and work related to sales and marketing was organised in a way so that people could work from home.

The closure of the HoReCa system, the plethora of coronavirus-induced economic issues, the rise in excise duties on alcohol and tobacco products – all these represent challenges that the wine industry has faced this year, and we’re only in May. In addition to all of these troubles, Galić stated that according to information from the sales index, the growth of wine sales in retail chains is visible, but this data still doesn’t go in favour of domestic winemakers. Namely, although the growth is visible, it is more related to imported wines which come in lower price categories, and the sales of top wines from Croatian wineries are unfortunately continuing to decline.

Despite the less than encouraging numbers, they still see something positive in everything. It is precisely the growth of online sales that has flourished in the last two months. Along with the growth of e-commerce, a positive shift, he added, is also visible in the gradual change in the habits of local consumers who seem to be beginning to appreciate quality domestic products more.

”Changes in consumer habits have been visible for a long time. Croats are becoming more and more educated about wines, as well as in pairing that drink with certain meals, thus raising the bar for local winemakers. This is an excellent indicator for us because, in line with this trend, we’re constantly investing in production processes in order to achieve better quality,” explained Galić.

Kutjevo winery, known for its “queen of the cellar”, Graševina, sells sixty percent of its wines on the domestic market through hotels and restaurants, which is why it views the reopening of the HoReCa system positively. For example, last year alone, they sold a little more than five million litres of wine through this sales channel on both domestic and foreign markets alone.

”Without caterers and hoteliers, the viticulture sector has no chance to sell wine and maintain the current dynamics. Wine is mostly consumed at gatherings such as celebrations, concerts, weddings and other occasions. We’re currently making additional efforts to prepare for the season ahead, despite a large number of questions and unknowns hanging over our heads. We’re obliged to deliver the top level of quality to our partners and consumers, regardless of the economic situation through our wine assortment and our service, which we’re extremely proud of,” concluded Kutjevo’s Galić.

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