On July 1, Croatia became the 28th member of the European Union. Earlier this week, the FSIS Export Library was updated to reflect this change, bringing Croatia under EU export requirements and eliminating any country-specific restrictions.
While exporting red meat to an EU member state is never easy, Croatia’s new status allows products to be shipped there under more familiar and consistent veterinary and sanitary standards. Exports to Croatia are also now eligible for the same tariff treatment as other destinations in the EU – including, for example, the zero-duty quota for high-quality beef.
Croatia ranks 21st among EU member states in population at 4.3 million. Its estimated per capita GDP of $18,200 is on the lower end of EU members, comparable to Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Estonia. However, the main engine for Croatia’s economy is a rapidly growing tourism and hospitality sector concentrated on the Adriatic coast.
“Tourism is thriving along Croatia’s beautiful coastline, and this has fueled rapid growth in the foodservice sector,” said John Brook, USMEF regional director for Europe, Russia and the Middle East. “Zagreb, the capital, is also a very nice city with a population of more than 1 million. These are the areas where we see opportunities for U.S. meat in Croatia because there is a growing need for higher-quality products.”
Brook noted that USMEF held promotions for U.S. beef in Croatia late last year in anticipation of its entry into the EU.
“We have a number of customers that have already made purchases, but now they will have access to high-quality U.S. beef on a duty-free basis, instead of paying the duties previously assessed by Croatia,” he explained.
Croatia’s beef imports have seen relatively steady growth over the past decade. In 2003, imports totaled only 1,670 metric tons (mt) valued at $3.8 million. The following year, imports nearly tripled (4,594 mt, $10.4 million). Volume peaked in 2009 (12,425 mt) before settling back the following two years. Last year, beef imports climbed back to 9,418 mt and value reached an all-time high of $45.7 million – with about half of that product coming from the Netherlands. New Zealand was the largest non-European supplier, with about 6 percent market share.
The trend is similar on the pork side, as Croatia’s imports grew significantly between 2003 (27,905 mt valued at $58.2 million) and 2012 (50,848 mt, $162.4 million). Germany captures about one-third of the imported pork market, with the Netherlands and Spain also holding double-digit market shares. Only a very small portion of Croatia’s imported pork is from non-European suppliers.
“Considering its rather small population, Croatia clearly has a growing need for red meat,” Brook said. “But the opportunity for the U.S. industry is not really centered on displacing European beef and pork, but rather expanding the presence of high-quality, well-marbled meat.”