Neretva Fruit Growers Breathe Sigh of Relief as Third of Produce Has Buyer

Lauren Simmonds

As Novac writes on the 7th of October, 2020, ENNA Fruit, a new player in the Neretva Valley fruit and vegetable purchase market, created by the recapitalisation of Marinada, intends to buy about a third of the entire mandarin crop in the Neretva Valley this year, triggering a sigh of relief from the Neretva fruit growers.

As the head of the purchase centre, Dragan Crnomarkovic, revealed, they plan to buy about 10,500 tonnes of mandarins. It is estimated that this year, the yield of the Neretva fruit growers is about 32,000 tonnes in total. This redemption centre started with a price of four kuna for the first and 2.5 for the second class of mandarins. After just one week, the price was adjusted to 3.5 kuna for the first class, while the second class remained at 2.5 kuna.

“The average price shouldn’t be bad because the yield is lower than average, and the quality is excellent. There’s no reason for a sudden and large drop in prices because there will be demand for Neretva mandarins on the market,” Crnomarkovic told Slobodna Dalmacija.

ENNA Fruit buys from more than 380 Neretva fruit growers, more specifically mandarin producers, of which only five have a yield of more than 100 tonnes. The fragmentation of plots is one of the bigger problems. “We suggest producers to gather in associations and producer organisations. Then it would be easier for them and also for us. They could protect their interests, and it would be much easier for us to work and communicate. It would be easier to plan delivery dynamics, prices, and ultimately negotiate and about the delivery of raw materials,” Crnomarkovic explained.

Export potential

The first quantities of purchased early varieties of mandarins from ENNA Fruit were placed out in the usual environment. The strategic buyer is Konzum, and they also sold them to Mercator Slovenia and Mercator Serbia. “This week, foreign markets are opening outside of our region, the most represented of which is the Czech and then the Slovak market. We’re the only company that sells mandarins in more distant markets such as the British, Irish and Dutch markets. We also sell something in Austria. There’s export potential, but we must have good quality and good organisation,” stated Crnomarkovic.

He also revealed that Spanish mandarin producers are less competitive in high-tariff and regulated markets than in unregulated, price-sensitive markets. ”Our small volumes don’t endanger them on markets where they’re heavily represented, and they’re the most prevalent on the British and German markets,” he noted.

ENNA Fruit cannot, according to Crnomarkovic, function only in the purchase of mandarins. Mandarins, he says, are the backbone of business and without it nothing would be worth doing. But they are a significant buyer of other produce of Neretva fruit growers, such as watermelon and strawberries. Leaving fruit aside, they’re also fond of cabbage, greenhouse greens such as lettuce and chard, cucumbers, peppers…

“Apart from watermelon, which we buy about 2000 tonnes and, of course, mandarins, other production in the Neretva Valley has fallen sharply. The merging and direct cooperation of these associations with distribution centres could result in the production of fresh fruit and vegetables in the Neretva Valley returning to their former levels, but without the association and organisation of producers this goal is difficult to achieve.

Joint promotion

”The label of authenticity, which was given to the Neretva mandarin, unfortunately, hasn’t provided it with any progress. In order to have an effect, we must organise ourselves at all levels and jointly promote the Neretva mandarin. That way, we could achieve a higher price on the foreign market,” said Crnomarkovic.

ENNA Fruit, he says, is now a very potent company on the market. “Liquidity has significantly improved. The payment deadline is 30 days. We have an excellent buying and selling network, both in Croatia and in the market of the region, and we’re positioning ourselves better when it comes to exports,” Crnomarkovic concluded.

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