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Agra turns 60 and returns to pre-Covid format to discuss challenges in agriculture

Gornja Radgona, 20 August - As many as 1,750 exhibitors from more than 30 countries are taking part in the 60th Agra agriculture trade fair, which opened on Saturday in Gornja Radgona in the pre-pandemic format and with Japan as the partner country. It celebrates its development over the past six decades and addresses multiple topical challenges in agriculture.

Gornja Radgona
A detail from one of the Agra fairs in recent years.
Photo: Bor Slana/STA
File photo

Slovenian agriculture is faced with an increasingly challenging environment of food production, such as natural disasters, rising costs and price pressures.

This summer it has been hit by one of the worst droughts since 2003, with all crops affected to a certain degree, but especially corn and grasslands.

Food prices are rising, including of meat, with the latest statistics showing that meat prices in Slovenia posted an annual 13.5% rise in July.

These challenges will be discussed at a number of talks and panel discussions co-organised with a number of expert organisations and the Agriculture Ministry.

There will be discussions on cloud seeding as protection from hailstones; irrigation; meeting the EU's climate goals in forestry and land use; and use of geothermal water in agriculture.

Addressing the opening ceremony, President Borut Pahor said in the short term Slovenia needed to adopt measures to stabilise agricultural markets and address food access for the vulnerable.

In the medium term, the country must continue a transition to more sustainable food systems in line with the green deal and the reduction of agriculture's dependency on fossil fuels and on imports of raw goods and feed.

On Monday, the Agriculture Ministry and its partners will discuss the country's strategic plan of the 2023-2027 common agriculture policy, a key document for Slovenian agriculture in the coming period.

Janez Erjavec, chairman of Pomurski Sejem, the company that organises the fair, is happy that the coronavirus uncertainty has ended and optimism and exhibitors have returned to Agra, allowing it to offer what is has traditionally offered in the past and being fully booked with commercial and expert exhibitions.

Japan, a country that catches 10% of all fish in the world, was invited as the partner country because 2022 is International Year of Artisanal Fisheries and Aquaculture.

The country is showcasing both agriculture and advanced technologies, while ten companies will participate with demonstrations and tastings of Japanese dishes.

Addressing the opening ceremony, Yoshitsugu Minagawa, an adviser to the Japanese minister of agriculture, forestry and fisheries, praised relations between Slovenia, saying the Japanese were proud to be participating in the fair.

The country exports some EUR 450 million of food to the EU annually, which accounts for 5% of total Japanese food exports, he said. Twelve Japanese food companies are taking part, showcasing high-quality foods, machines and technologies, he said.

As part of European Year of the Youth, the young will be also in the focus, with young Slovenian farmers presenting their vision of a future.

Agra also brings half a dozen international professional evaluations of products and a competition for best Slovenian packaging.

More than 430 manufacturers have submitted almost 1,670 products for evaluation, which the organisers see as a growing need for such evaluations.

A number of delegations, including business and government officials, experts and schools, are expected at the six-day fair, which Erjavec says has developed into one of the largest and most important agricultural fairs in this part of Europe.

The fair's "success story" will be presented in a display at the exhibition grounds and at the local library and an book will be published about the key persons who have had a major impact on the fair.

© STA, 2022