Croatia’s agriculture is characterized by an abundance of resources and potential for agricultural production and processing, and the successful cultivation of a large number of crops is the result of diverse natural conditions in a geographically small area, as well as of various cultural influences to which it was exposed throughout history.
In the structure of economy, small family farms prevail.
Most of the utilized agricultural land is in Slavonia, Croatia’s granary, with the largest part of total arable land. In the agricultural land structure of the hills and mountain area of central Croatia meadows and pastures are highly represented, while in the total coastal and island area, vineyards, olive groves and partly orchards are traditionally dominant. The sea surface of the Republic of Croatia occupies a little more than half of the total territory and stretches along the 6,278 km long coastline, covering 1,244 islands, islets and cliffs. About 6,600 active licensed fishing vessels make the Croatian fishing fleet, and the average annual catch in commercial fishing is around 70,000 tonnes. The most important fishing segment of the Republic of Croatia is the small pelagic fishery where dominant species are sardine and anchovy. Moreover, aquaculture in Croatia has shown a growth trend in the last five years, whereby the cultivation of marine organisms has the dominant significance in terms of annual production quantity and the total value.
A strategically very important segment of agricultural production is organic production, which is confirmed by the fact that Croatia has the highest increase of area under organic production in the entire European Union. The annual value of the Croatian organic products market is around 99 million euro, and in the coming years it is expected to grow thanks to extremely favourable agroenvironmental conditions. Additional potential drivers of the development of this market are the food and wine offer in tourism, the abundance of traditional local products and a whole range of old varieties and breeds that are eligible for organic production.
Crop farming is one of the most important agricultural branches according to the use of land and the production of food for people and animals, and as much as 54.1 per cent of used agricultural land comprises of arable land and gardens. In the total structure of crop farming in Croatia, the production of cereals occupies the most significant place. During the period 2016 – 2018, cereals occupied the area of an average of 484 thousand hectares, producing an average of 3.1 million tonnes, where corn was dominant with 51 per cent of sown areas, and wheat with 29 per cent of sown areas.
The majority of vegetable production is in continental Croatia, and the most represented types of vegetables in 2018 according to the planted area are cabbage, onions and garlic, peppers and watermelon. The production of fruit, especially citrus fruits, dominates in coastal Croatia, and the most represented ones in the last year were walnuts, hazelnuts, apples, plums, cherries and tangerines. Average intensive fruit farming in the period from 2016 to 2018 amounted to 142,713 tonnes on an area of 31,458 hectares. Sugar is the most important Croatian export product in the last decade, with an exceptional contribution to the total trade balance, and almost all exports are realised on the EU market.
Wine production is characterized by a diversity of types and richness of autochthonous varieties, given the natural conditions for vine growing, where four wine-growing regions differ with a total of 12 subregions. Around 250 wine grape varieties are cultivated, and the most represented ones are: Graševina, Istrian Malvazija and Plavac Mali, with a total share of about 40 per cent. Wine production ranges from 0.7 to 1.4 million hectolitres, and quality and premium wines make up about 70 per cent of the total wine production in Croatia.
The history of olive production is more than two thousand years old, and the widely recognized quality of olive oils from Croatian areas has been known since Roman times. The areas under olive groves today amount to about 18,697 hectares, which makes 1.26 per cent compared to the total agricultural area. Oil production varies from year to year depending on climatic and other factors, and ranges from 35,000 to 50,000 hectolitres. Croatia currently has five olive oils with protected designations of origin registered at the EU level, which are known and recognised globally.
Livestock farming plays an important role in the agricultural activity of the Republic of Croatia with a share of about 35 per cent of the value of the total agricultural production. In the structure of livestock farming, cattle, pig, poultry, sheep and goat farming play a significant role, and in recent years the significance of beekeeping is growing as well. Cattle farming is the most significant livestock farming branch, where the indigenous Croatian breeds of cattle, namely Slavonian-Syrmian Podolian cattle, Istrian cattle and Buša, represent a rich genetic heritage which is gradually growing due to the applied measures of agrarian policy and the organised implementation of breeding programmes. When we talk about sheep and goat farming, the Republic of Croatia is characterized by large uninhabited areas and a long tradition of farming in some parts of the country. The last three years have seen an increase in the total number of sheep and goats and the number of breeding sheep and goats and stock breeders, and it is expected that this positive trend will continue in the future. More than one million pigs are slaughtered in Croatian slaughterhouses, and in the past few years the export of live pigs is growing. The tradition of pig farming is also reflected through distinctive traditional products such as kulen and dry-cured ham. Special emphasis is placed on the authentic and protected breeds, so the population of the Black Slavonian pig reached the highest number of breeding female pigs, 2,262 in 2018, and the Turopolje pig and the Banija spotted pig have stable populations with increasing tendency in terms of the total number of breeding animals. Poultry population in 2018 grew almost 10 per cent compared to the previous year, and the most significant poultry farming products are meat and consumable eggs, and of the total production of poultry meat, the most represented one is the production of chicken meat, accounting for as much as 78 per cent. Two indigenous poultry breeds are protected in Croatia, the Zagorje turkey and the Hrvatica hen.
Forests have special protection in Croatia, and their quality is that 95 per cent of them are natural, with large biodiversity, and they make up as much as 49 per cent of the land area of the country. As for the tree species, the most represented ones are beech, common oak, and sessile oak; the forestry stocks in Croatia amount to 419 million m3, of which private forest owners participate in the total timber stock with 84 million m3, while the annual increase of timber stock is approximately 10 million m3. Moreover, there are 313 state hunting grounds and 769 county hunting grounds on approximately 5.4 million hectares of land, characterized by a large variety of game. Croatia has a rich tradition of production and preparation of various agricultural and food products that are characterized by a special quality and traditional way of production. Even though it is the youngest EU member state, Croatia has 23 agricultural and food products which names are protected, i.e. have protected designations of origin or protected geographical indicationson EU level. Nine Croatian product names are in the process of the registration of designations or indications at the EU level, and seven product names, for which the documentation is being prepared for the registration of designations or indications at the EU level, are under transitional national protection.