The harvest of the earliest varieties of Neretva mandarins has begun in Croatia’s Neretva valley.
About forty thousand tons will be harvested in the next three months. Fruit growers say that they are expecting a better price for the mandarins this year because they are of better quality than last year.
The Bostanac area in the heart of the Neretva swamp can only be reached by water. But farmers who have plantations there are privileged because mandarins ripen the earliest there.
“Fresh water and an area especially from the micro-climate that affects its ripening,” said mandarin producer and buyer Gradimir Šešelj told HRT.
The young Deak family in Bostanc harvests the earliest variety of mandarin – zorica rana or zoran. All the zorans picked so far are sweet and delicious.
“Everyone teases me that I am good because I have the same name as the first variety of mandarin that is usually the best price, said Zorana Deak from Vlak.
Most of the mandarins will be sold to purchase centres. Manufacturers already have objections to the first purchase price of three and a half kuna for the first class because they know from experience that it will not last long.
“If producers can not get four kuna for the first mandarins, it is zero. We know what is happening in the next five, six, seven days, the price of mandarins will be where they will be,” said the vice president of the Croatian Fruit Growing Association Neven Mataga.
More than a thousand family farms and companies are engaged in the production of mandarins, and many others are involved in the most lucrative business in Neretva.
“That means we need about a thousand pickers a day to harvest. We also need 400-500 workers in packing houses and calibrators and that is a serious number,” added Robert Doko.
Most pickers come every day from the border area of neighbouring Bosnia and Herzegovina. They can be in Croatia twelve hours a day.
In the next three months, forty thousand tons of mandarins are expected to be harvested and if everything goes according to plan – about 150 million kuna should flow into the Neretva valley.