Photos: EU ProLocall
It is the field where early potatoes, one of the most iconic products of the Herzegovina region, are grown, where we found Dubravko Vukojević, the Director of Farming Cooperative “Plodovi Zemlje”. “I became the director as no one else wanted to”, said Dubravko with a smile.
He is also one of the 180 farmers in this Cooperativve cultivating the early potatoes of Ljubuški, famous for their ripening at least one month before other types of potatoes.
Two years ago the Cooperative became a part of the EU ProLocal Programme, funded by the European Union and the German Government, and implemented by the GIZ. The Programme provided technical support, thus significantly developing the capacity of the Cooperative to introduce the GlobalG.A.P. standard which is the unique standard of global certification of agricultural products and a golden reference of the good farming practice.
Branding, however, was the crucial “step” the EU ProLocal helped them to make. As Dubravko said “it’s the packaging that attracts the customers, and it’s the quality that retains them. Take off the Coca-Cola label and no one will recognise it.”
Design of the packaging of the Ljubuški early potatoes shows the Sun, stone and red earth. “We truly hope that this product, now in a package that mirrors the landmarks of our beloved Herzegovina, will soon be served at the tables all over Europe”, added Vukojević.
The biodegradable package of the high-quality indigenous product with the new, unique design was officially introduced at the event titled “Days of the Early Potatoes – Ljubuški Rani ” held recently in Ljubuški.
On this occasion we talked to Ivan Jelčić, the Director of the Development Agency of the North Herzegovina Region – HERAG, about the cooperation with the EU ProLocal and the achieved results. “We have been working together with Cooperative “Plodovi Zemlje” for many years. The grant that our Agency received within the EU ProLocal for the development of small and medium-sized enterprises in the value chain of the Ljubuški early potatoes was an opportunity to enhance this cooperation and to achieve concrete results presented to the public today”, explained Jelčić.
He also commented on the important contribution of the Program with development of the project documents and the business plan for the construction of a collection-distribution centre in Bijača. “Opening of the centre would be very important for the strengthening and enhancing of the Cooperative business, as it would facilitate an independent market entry and a stronger negotiating position of the Cooperative, in other words, a faster and more profitable sale of produced vegetables without resellers in general “, concluded Jelčić.