Exploring the bounty of Vukovar-Syrmia County

19. March 2024. Marko Kozjak

The land where tradition meets innovation!

Located in the easternmost part of Croatia, the Vukovar-Syrmia County bears witness to the agricultural wealth fostered by the winding Danube and Sava rivers. Spread over a sprawling 2,448 square kilometers, the landscape of the district is a patchwork of fertile plains and verdant fields, fed by the life-giving waters of the regional waterways. It is a land where tradition meets innovation, where a legacy of centuries-old farming practices interweave with modern farming techniques to create a tapestry of wealth and opportunity.

Photo:  Franjo Škegro (Source TZ VSŽ)

In the center of the agricultural power of the Vukovar-Syrmia County, there is a huge arable area that totals an impressive 148,886 hectares. This country, blessed with fertile soil and a favorable climate, forms the backbone of the regional agricultural sector, sustaining a diverse array of crops that vary from staple grains to specialty fruits and vegetables. Within this widespread agricultural area, an incredible 93.01% is devoted to farming, which confirms the county’s status as the real granary of Croatia.

Understanding the agricultural dynamics of Vukovar-Syrmia County:

The county’s agricultural landscape is shaped by a multitude of factors, from market dynamics to organizational structures, payment terms and crop rotation practices. These elements converge to determine the representation of different crops on agricultural land, influencing the choices of farmers and agricultural enterprises. Despite the complexity of this agricultural ecosystem, recent years have witnessed exceptional stability in production, with minimal fluctuations in production in key sectors.

 

Photo:  Martin Hrvojević (Izvor TZ VSŽ)

Among the agricultural crops that dominate the production landscape of the county, cereals dominate, with a share of an incredible 51% in agricultural production. Maize, wheat, barley and other grains cover vast tracts of arable land, and their golden hues paint the landscape in shades of amber and gold. Just behind are oilseeds, which make up 35% of agricultural production, highlighting the region’s contribution to the production of essential oils and biofuels.

While cereals and oilseeds form the backbone of agricultural production, there is enough room for growth and diversification, especially in the area of vegetable cultivation. Despite advances in agricultural mechanization and technology, vegetable production remains a labor-intensive job that requires care and attention throughout the growing season. However, in recent years, new crops such as broad beans and asparagus have appeared, whose increasing popularity has encouraged the establishment of specialized cooperatives such as Vinkovac asparagus.

In addition to vegetables, certain segments of agricultural production, such as fruit growing, provide significant potential for future growth and development. Perennial fruit orchards dot the province, and their lush orchards yield an abundance of cherries, hazelnuts, apples, walnuts and plums. This fruit, prized for its taste and nutritional value, contributes to the agricultural diversity of the district while providing a sustainable source of income for local farmers. It is interesting that in Croatia there are a total of 18,000 registered apple producers who produce on an area of about 6,000 hectares, which is about 15% of all areas covered by fruit. Apple is represented by 30% of the total produced fruit, and the largest number of plantations is precisely in the Vukovar-Syrmia County.

Photo:  Vedran Čuljak (Source TZ VSŽ)

Along with traditional cultures, viticulture occupies a special place in the agricultural heritage of Vukovar-Syrmia County. With more than 1,200 vineyards spread over 1,605 hectares of land, the county’s viticultural sector is testimony to a centuries-old winemaking tradition. Despite challenges such as clearing vineyards and replacing varieties, the total area under vineyards remains stable, with hundreds of farms actively engaged in viticulture.

Photo:  Darko Kešnjer (Source TZ VSŽ)

Efforts to reduce the impact of agriculture on the environment are a key priority of the Vukovar-Syrmia County, with initiatives aimed at promoting ecological agriculture and preserving natural resources. At the national level, the rural development program plays a key role in supporting sustainable agriculture, offering measures such as payments for environmental services and incentives for organic farming. At the local level, the county government seeks to encourage organic production through support programs and educational initiatives, encouraging farmers to adopt practices that promote biodiversity, conserve natural resources and reduce chemical inputs.

Investment of the Vukovar-Syrmia County in irrigation and digital technologies:

Recognizing the indispensable role of irrigation in modern agriculture, the Vukovar-Syrmia County invested in four fully operational irrigation systems covering more than 2,700 hectares of agricultural land. These systems are key in optimizing water management and ensuring consistent yields in different climates. Moreover, the county’s commitment to innovation is also reflected in ambitious projects such as the Pannonian Center for the Application of Digital Technologies in Agriculture. This initiative highlights the county’s commitment to embracing cutting-edge technologies such as robotics and smart agriculture, with the goal of increasing the quality and efficiency of agricultural production.

Photo:  Tihana Koprtla (Source TZ VSŽ)

Similarly, initiatives such as the Agro-Technological Center for Storage and Processing of Vegetables and Fruits (ATC) mark a strategic approach to improving post-harvest infrastructure. Upon completion, ATC is ready to facilitate consultation, research and development of new production technologies, which will strengthen the capacity of the food industry in the region. Furthermore, the County’s focus extends to the livestock sector, with plans for the construction of a regional slaughterhouse equipped with state-of-the-art facilities for meat processing. In addition, the county is spearheading the establishment of the first GMO-free soybean processing center, aligning itself with consumer preferences for sustainable and healthy food. In accordance with its determination to support local producers, the Vukovar-Syrmia County plays a key role in the establishment and development of producer organizations. Financial assistance, primarily financed from the county budget, was provided for key infrastructure projects such as the Logistics and Distribution Center, with the aim of improving the capacity for storage, cooling and canning of fruit. These initiatives not only strengthen the competitiveness of local producers, but also contribute to the overall economic development of the region. Prioritizing the development of infrastructure and encouraging an environment conducive to agricultural innovation, the Vukovar-Syrmia County continues to position itself as a dynamic center of agricultural excellence and sustainable growth.

Revival of animal husbandry and rural economy in Vukovar-Syrmia County:

In the Vukovar-Syrmia County, the decline in agricultural production poses a threat to the region’s livestock, aggravated by factors such as low milk purchases and the outbreak of African swine fever. However, the initiatives led by Agroklaster d.o.o. they are reshaping the landscape by grouping producers into clusters, encouraging collaboration and implementing projects such as free-range egg production. This revitalization effort extends beyond agricultural practices, with a focus on promoting rural tourism through projects such as the Rural Tourism Sunflower. The county’s priority is to recognize and support innovative farmers, with the aim of positioning the Vukovar-Syrmia region as the center of new agricultural products and sustainable development. Accepting national and EU policies, the county emphasizes the traceability and sustainability of products, with the aim of developing a recognizable county brand while ensuring progress and improvement for local producers.

Photo: Source TZ VSŽ

Vision of sustainable development of Vukovar-Syrmia County:

Vukovarsko-srijemska županija zalaže se za ulogu malih ruralnih zajednica kao katalizatora šire društvene transformacije. Kroz suradnju s jedinicama lokalne samouprave, posvećeni su pomlađivanju ovih zajednica. Ove su godine selo Ilača u općini Tovarnik s ponosom proglasili glavnim gradom sela, čime su označili značajnu prekretnicu u njihovim naporima za revitalizaciju.

Njihova predanost proteže se na organizaciju autentičnih, osebujnih i renomiranih događaja koji prikazuju jedinstvene proizvode njihove regije. Suradnjom s općinama i gradovima nastoje uvesti inovativne pristupe koji ističu predanost poljoprivrednika u izradi najfinijih srijemskih delicija. Uz već ustaljene manifestacije poput Otočke kulenijade i Nacionalna šunkijada, s veseljem predstavljaju prvu GastroA manifestaciju u općini Andijaševci.

Photo: Vedran Čuljak (Source TZ VSŽ)

Scheduled for April 27, 2024, this event will celebrate the finest cured meat delicacies, such as sausage and kulen seka, complemented by the underappreciated vegetable culture of asparagus. With this initiative, we not only promote our producers and processors within Croatia, but also strive to increase our presence outside the country’s borders.

Conclusion:

Vukovar-Syrmia County’s commitment to rural revitalization, community empowerment and agricultural innovation underscores their commitment to shaping a vibrant and sustainable future. By using the combined efforts of their residents, local authorities and agricultural stakeholders, they are poised to overcome challenges, seize opportunities and create a circle where agriculture thrives, communities flourish and quality of life is improved for all.

Photo: Vedran Čuljak (Source TZ VSŽ)

 

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