LIFESTYLE Digital markets are OK, but they will never replace going to the market

29. March 2020. VeeMee

Placa, Dolac, Pazar … are dear places where social contacts are sharpened, friendships are made, people walk among banks, shouting, guessing at the price, measuring, evaluating, laughing, angry…

Placa, Dolac, Pazar … Generations have raised us to a good extent, and they will raise us if there is luck, markets. These are not big stores of an even bigger shopping centre where you walk past the shelves for hours without saying a word, it is not a credit card that just leans against the machine that is obvious, it is not aggressive advertisements or music that perfidiously forces you to make an action purchase. 

There, social contacts are sharpened, friendships are made, people walk among the banks with their ears pricked up to hear what is new, even if it is gossip, they shout, they hit the price, they laugh, they are angry.

This measure, it is estimated, is the same even when you are different, because in the line for fish or in the butcher’s we are all more or less the same if we have not found a way to earn a downed fish or a good lamb shoulder under the banks. Because of the markets, we are loved by tourists who frantically spend their movies on colourful stands, mad that I don’t think every carrot in our country has to be the same length. 

And if you are still lucky that your parents, as a young woman, forced you to do groceries, bake, groceries, what may once have been a torment, has grown over time into the foundation of an edible life and a ritual that takes place at least once a week. 

Come to the fish market, stand in line for the bluefish that is always fresh in Antonija and watch him know in a millisecond how to deal with which customer, while his strong father always cleans the big bocce behind his back like a Viking eclipse, it’s not a fish market – it’s a theatre!

Antonio for fish, Neno for meat, Brankica for green… And then we were left without that theatre and without dear ‘actors’.

An unremembered situation

Markets and their associated stores are closed. Was it necessary?

–Closing the markets is, as far as I know, an unprecedented situation. Let’s just remember the Markale market in Sarajevo, which operated during the entire occupation of Sarajevo, even after the shelling in 1994 and 1995, when about two hundred people were killed in the markets. Markets are an essential part of the city’s food supply and remain open during major crises.

Their vitality lies in their ability to adapt, immediacy, and loose legal regulation that allows for improvisation. In this situation, when the reasons for closure are understandable, we should be aware that we are not in a position to throw even a bite of food, and that is likely to happen. How many small producers will now be left with surplus food? How many of them will be able to mobilize in some other way, digital or some other, is the real question?

Markets were closed due to the irresponsibility and indiscipline of customers, and I believe it was a difficult decision.

This time we need to think not only about customers but primarily about people who produce food in small quantities. Locally produced food largely depends on urban food sustainability and self-sufficiency – especially in a situation where borders can be closed – and it is a priority!

I hope that the administrations will find a model in which markets will open and enable the sale of food that is an existential issue for our godmothers and godmothers – says Jelena Ivanišević from the Institute of Ethnology and Folklore Research, author of the “Historical Dictionary of Croatian Culinary Arts”.

Forced break

For now, however, the decision to close our markets is in force.

How to get a valid edible, how to get groceries in general, is becoming an even bigger challenge every day since this crown, no matter how many Internet search engines with the names of family farms and stores that offer delivery every day.

Can everyone at all and do everyone know how to switch to online sales overnight !?

Antonio Faflja and his father are fishermen from Rab. Young and already experienced, skilled and communicative, honest and that is, when fish is bought, probably the most important thing. We caught him, and where else but, in these pandemic times, at home. It is not at sea either because there is a bora, and even if there is a catch, you cannot go to Zagreb’s Dolac. It is impossible to dress up the goods.

– See for yourself how it is. Until further notice, we are all on forced leave – Antonio tells us.

It’s about networking, preparing something, but that’s not it. We ask him if the market will disappear until this crown problem passes, or if customers will return.

“They’ll be back if they don’t come back.” By the way, a lot of people called me for delivery, but I can’t arrange it. It’s hard to promise someone something when one doesn’t know what to catch at all. It’s impossible – he says.

Where to place ‘caught, how to deliver’, does it pay off at all. Hard, says Antonio.

Everything has become more expensive on the island, ferries run twice a day, movement is limited, intercity, at least that possibility exists if there are ID cards.

But going from building to building and offering fish, and without a lot of employees who will theoretically cover quarter by quarter, is impossible. We joke and tell him that then for Good Friday they will have to send us a picture of what kind of fish you catch from the canoe caught, not from the hut because it doesn’t pay to go to the sea by hut when you have nowhere to place the catch.

Antonio laughs and then asks what the situation is in Zagreb, a city where until yesterday he came on a daily basis full of cassettes of fish to return home empty-handed. It’s lousy. And on Rab?

Fear of the “wild”

– If nothing else, here we are together, mom cooks lunch, dad and I bathe in the garage of the network, everything is like some 15, 20 years ago when we started – says Antonio.

The one Neno next to Mesnica is Nenad Erdelić.

– We are alive, that is the most important thing – Neno tells us, first of all.

He goes back to the story until the day when they found out only the night before it happened that the markets would close. They hurried to divide the meat from the butcher shop, scattered it around and now it doesn’t work. People call him, ask for delivery, but, he admits, he is afraid to do it ‘wildly’.

– I have no idea what to do. Should we take, say, a bar and deliver from it !? I don’t know – says Neno. He is right when he says that it is not pasta meat if it were it would be easier in this situation we are in.

He is on the scales, in a dilemma of what to do, and when asked if someone tried to organize them, to gather so that it is easier for them to organize delivery and to know according to which rules, he says no. It seems to him that no one wants to deal with that.

– To at least let us in at the market, so we can stack meat for people. We don’t have to work as a market – Neno thinks aloud.

But no one wants to sign responsibility for the earthquake either, even though Dolac did well. In fact, some kind of wink from the top is waiting, wherever that top is. I guess, at that moment, it will be just like those hams for Easter if distribution channels are found.

Supermarket shelves

Brankica Solina on Dolac has a stand with vegetables that is equally loved by the ordinary world and famous Croatian chefs. If nothing else, she grows sprouts that are widely known. The whole family makes a living from it. We ask her if they have managed to adapt to this extraordinary situation?

– We try, but it’s not easy. We have given a list of goods on our Facebook page, there are those who would do the delivery, there is a story that allegedly the plots might be able to open in part. We will see how it will be – says Brankica.

Yes, there are platforms, websites through which goods are offered. But…

– Really, who is it for !? It’s for people who are already dealing with it. What can I and even older than me do now, what do we know about technology, platforms. If we didn’t have children, we could sit ‘and cry’. It’s not that simple – says Brankica.

We mention to her the shy mention of the possibility that domestic goods will finally come off the shelves of large retail chains, but she is suspicious about it. Simply, he says, it is not easy, neither for each of the small producers to reach the big one nor for the centre to take the goods from each one individually. And will we go back to the markets !? They won’t disappear, will they !?

– Who knows. I hope not. We live only from that. I hope it will not disappear – says Brankica Solina.

Survival of family farms

With “beware” in the name of greeting, all these conversations ended. As her name was Nena, Brankica, Antonia, so each of us could call our own supplier.

Wherever it all goes, it is easily possible that this direct call to the supplier will be the best way to supply us. There is no doubt that the closure of markets will be a big blow for family farms in Croatia. There are officially about one hundred thousand family farms in our country, about 70,000 of those who place their goods on the market.

The data says that about 20 per cent of them depend on market sales, 30 per cent supply them to stores, about 10 per cent sell to wholesalers, five per cent send goods for export, and the remaining 35 per cent are small family farms, which sell goods locally. The hope for the survival of family farms, especially those dependent on sales in the markets, is given by the company VeeMee, which, long before the current trouble, a few years ago, created an internet platform that now brings together about 1,200 family farms from all over Croatia. customers can directly connect with producers, or arrange food delivery to a point or in front of the door.

Digital markets are OK, but they will never replace going to the market - VeeMee

Marko Kozjak from the company VeeMee says that the search engine on the platform has never been more active, it has 50,000 views a day. There is nothing that cannot be found on it, milk, meat, fruits, vegetables, eggs, oils, honey… There are products from all over Croatia, with a known origin. We ask Kozjak if the platform can save family farms. –

Just now I was talking to a friend who is a family member, who has been with us from the beginning and who has benefited from our system from the beginning, but now I can’t help him – Kozjak told us.

The man he is talking about is engaged in the production of agricultural products and in order to be liquid, his sales must be between 300 and 500 thousand kunas. To him, ordering 500 or 1,000 kunas of goods means practically nothing.

– As much as we have these information systems and everything, we, unfortunately, cannot help people who are in the middle class. The big ones sell to retail chains, and even today they sell a lot fewer goods, the middle ones don’t know where to go with the goods because they are neither for shopping malls nor for home sales, and the small ones have the most for home sales and we can help them the most – Kozjak said honestly.

That, he says, is, unfortunately, a reality. He has been warning for many years that our production is small, that it is dangerous to rely entirely on tourism. For example, Varaždin and Međimurje counties work well, with good production of cabbage, carrots, potatoes, but again not enough for the needs of all of us, the City of Zagreb and its surroundings have small producers, that’s good. And Rijeka?

People from Rijeka have honeycombs. That is, there are producers in Rijeka and its surroundings, but now the question arises whether a city like Rijeka can be supplied by its surrounding family farms. I have no answer for that. Why? Because the Varaždin area, the Zagreb County and the City of Zagreb are the most covered on my platform – says Kozjak.

Digital marketplaces

A platform of this kind is also announced by the Ministry of Agriculture. But why new when Kozjak says that, together with the Ministry, they can expand the network of delivery of products from family farms throughout Croatia in a short time.

Because, people are still appearing more and more to Kozjak, eager to be included on the platform. Well, he enrolls them for free because he has in this situation, as he says, he has no heart to say that it is not all for free.

Maybe they are the solution of the digital market, says Kozjak. These would be platforms on which all producers selling in the markets would be included, their contacts would be published, but only those suppliers who can bring the goods to the doorstep. It could solve the current problems of those who have the goods, they can deliver them, but they have no one.

And until there are digital markets and until the cities decide on them, Kozjak offers concrete help and solutions to the City of Rijeka and the farmers of Rijeka and its surroundings in the situation that has befallen us.

– Let them contact us, we will include them in the system within 48 hours, and on the website of the City of Rijeka let them also list their contacts for people who do not use the Internet to that extent. They will have contacts on the city website and with us profiles of what they produce and what can be bought from them. And let people actually negotiate directly with the manufacturers.

Because the story of the online store worked until a week ago. It’s falling into the water today. You don’t have Glovo, you don’t have Uber, you don’t have taxi drivers, I don’t mean literally but there aren’t enough of them to supply everything, all the apartments, all the houses. There is no standardized procedure that allows distribution of this scale. Everything falls on the shoulders of a private individual who has to give himself a pass, guarantee that he is healthy and deliver food to the doorstep and charge it normally – Kozjak suggests.

Just so people wouldn’t be afraid of safety !? Kozjak says that the measures prescribed by the Civil Protection Headquarters should be followed. – It is normal that there is a Headquarters that will give instructions, but there must also be the responsibility of the people who do it, who sell the goods and those who buy it – says Kozjak.

Standard of origin

If you go to VeeMee, the first thing you find there is a standard of origin. Given that every day more and more websites, webshops appear, that everyone offers something, it is increasingly obvious that we have a deficit of standardization.

It is not easy to find a reliable supplier, that is, it is easy to make mistakes and that the times are ideal. In the end, you usually go where there is a good recommendation. On the other hand, there is so much that it is difficult to say that there is no choice, whether you go to sites like,,, or consult Špajza on Facebook, Domaće je domaće, Domaću boutiga…

There are choices, people manage, both those who sell and those who buy. The times are just such that it would be wise to think what to do next, what kind of agriculture we want in five years, how to make family farms more resilient to crises of any kind, how to market domestic products better and how to raise and organize production. This brings us back to those questions that VeeMee has been asking since its inception: who, what, where and how much? Some solutions are there.

And the markets? We will return to them, it is simply in our blood.

Author: Siniša Pavić

Source – Novi List:

Krajnji primatelj financijskog instrumenta sufinanciranog iz Europskog fonda za regionalni razvoj u sklopu Operativnog programa "Konkurentnost i kohezija"
The creation of this website was co-financed by the European Union from European Structural and Investment Funds Krajnji korisnik financijskog instrumenta sufinanciranog iz ESIF mikro zajmovi za obrtna sredstva u sklopu Operativnog programa konkurentnosti i kohezije