Recognition of tradition and quality to support competitiveness
Mandarins from Croatia’s Neretva Valley, and sausage from the Baranja region in the east of the country, have won the right to bear the Geographical Indication (GI) status, which is a sign used on goods that have a specific geographical origin and possess qualities, reputation or characteristics that are essentially attributable to that origin.
GIs are protected in accordance with international treaties and national laws, including trademark laws in the form of collective marks or certification marks, laws against unfair competition, consumer protection laws, and laws or decrees that recognise individual GIs.
As demand for origin-based and high-quality produce is growing, this recognition is also increasing their competitiveness in the market. “The registration provides the opportunity to local producers to market a niche quality product more effectively and to get access to wider distribution networks and European markets thanks to increased brand recognition,” said Vedrana Jelušić Kašić, EBRD Director for Croatia, at a joint FAO/EBRD conference in Zagreb today.
With the new registrations, the Neretva mandarin and the Baranjski “kulen” (sausage) join products such as Parmigiano Reggiano, Champagne and Florida Oranges, all of which enjoy global recognition. Worldwide there are approximately 10,000 registered GIs, with an annual trade value estimated at US$ 50 billion.
Registering products as GIs is an effective way to communicate quality, safety and tradition to consumers. As part of the registration process, groups of producers come together and collaborate in setting official standards. These standards protect the reputations of the products and add to their value.
The next step for Croatia is to ensure the recognition of their GIs by the European Commission so that they are also protected in the European market. Croatia’s Ministry of Agriculture will oversee this process so that the Neretva mandarin and Baranjski kulen can be enjoyed abroad, and so that financial returns to Croatian farmers may grow.
Collective branding through a GI can support rural development, preserve cultural heritage and add value to local products. “We have several regions – Slavonia, Baranja, Istria and Dalmatia – where you have different technology and different types of traditional products,” said Jelena Dugum, Head of Service at the Croatian Ministry of Agriculture. “The methods of production are transferred from generation to generation and nowadays they are really typical and very good for our country, especially in the way of tourism,” she added.
The Baranjski kulen was successfully registered with a protected geographical indication (PGI) in July 2012, while the mandarin achieved protected designation of origin (PDO) status – which has even stricter requirements than the PGI – in September 2013.
The successful registration is the result of a joint FAO/ EBRD project to develop GIs in Croatia and to strengthen backward linkages. With the support of the Croatian agribusiness company, Agrokor, and the Ministry of Agriculture, groups of farmers were organised, standards were created and the GIs were officially registered, over the course of just three years.
The effect of recognition of these two GIs goes beyond these products alone, which are expected to serve as examples in the region. Producers of similar goods in the Balkans have already initiated the GI registration process. As international recognition grows, farmers will be able to retain local tradition and culture, while seeing their investments grow.
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