History of Petrovec Hops

Short history of hops production in Serbia,Vojvodina and Backi Petrovac

Hop is a plant which enabled welfare and prosperity to inhabitants of Backi Petrovac and Vojvodina for more than 250 years.But also from the other hand, a lot of people went  to bankcruptcy in hop growing business. From avaliable archive can be noticed, that first hop fields in Serbia and Vojvodina were planted in the region of Backi Petrovac, and those were seedlings from Zatec, formal Czechoslovakia (than formal Austrohungarian monarchy), was brought by Count Andrej HadikHops from Zatec were most suitable for brewing and the buyers paid the highest price, but very soon arrived various forgers, who started to sell other varieties of hops named Backa, like hops from Zatec.In order to stop this activities and speculations, Maria Teresia at the end of XVIII century issued a patent and order to Government offices to seal hops bales and to issue Certificate of origin.That was a long-term decision, which were respected all over the world. Nowdays growing and sales of hops is not possible without information about  Certificates of origin and basic characteristics of hops.

In the period of Maria Teresia, started hop growing process in Backi Petrovac. In second part of XVIII century, already existed a brewery in the Count Hadik property.Production and consumption of beer started to grow, which lead to increase of hop growing.

Hop growing in Europe were lead by big landowners.They protected jealously  their privilege to grow these culture.They were very strict to secure that the plants never arrive to fiield of small farmers. In order not to spread the growing of hops,big landowners burned the hop seedlings in the spring after pruning.

During of XIX century, when small and middle farmsteads started to develop,hop fields started to grow in  Backi Petrovac and region.Certain smaller and middle  farmers managed to gain hop seedlings in XIX century and started to develop very fast,which lead that  Backi Petrovac became center of hop growing in the region.Growing of hops enabled that Backi Petrovac was recognized in every place where beer was brewed.

Due to rapid expansion of hop production in 1907 was bulit the first specialized big warehouse in Backi Petrovac,which could receive about 800 bales of hops (1 bale around 200 kg).Afterwards were built smaller warehouses and hop trading started to bloom.In 1907. teacher Jan Kubani prepared the first experiments with hops and for this purpose, the first experimental hop plant was erected.From 1920 till  1927 hop plants started to sprout in Vojvodina and in Backi Petrovac were erected a lot of hop fields on about 2000 ha. After 1927 godine,prices of hops started suddenly to decrease.The main reason was hiper production of hops worldwide which were connected with world crisis and than started  reduction of  hop fields. This was also the result of the ban on alcohol, which was introduced  in USA, the largest world consumer.Crisis in hops production lasted till 1935,when hop field started to increase.The general opinion was that the production will be stable on 1500 ha.However a number of speculations showed up with traders and resellers in main rolls. They managed to create an ambient of  artificial real impression of over-production of hops, which resulted that  small and fair producer suffered, and was   forced  to sell the hops in most  inconveniant period of year  to feed their family. Back in those days started more intesitive work on building of first  hops association, lead by Samuel Siska.

Destruction  of second World war mainly influenced these branch of agriculture.Hop growing were completely distroyed.

After liberation started the new period in development of  economy.In 1950 were 143 ha of  hop farms, which were not enough to supply the local breweries capacity for this raw material.In that period,demand for hops motivated local farmers, agriculture planning experts  and enterprenours to develop hop  farms. That resulted  that in mentioned  period in Backi Petrovac was built 10 warehouses and around 100 driers for hops.In that year was established the first trading company for import and export of hops.In 1952. in  Backi  Petrovac, the center of hop growing in Vojvodina,was established a specialized Institution for hops, where were created domestic varieties,known as  „Aroma“ and  „Robusta“.

In that period the biggest producer and processor of hops in Vojvodina and Backi Petrovac,was PETROVEC LTD.Company started to develop hops after the second World war and in 1969 already increased hopfarm till 200 ha.Most common varieties,which PETROVEC LTD was producing in farm were: „Backa“, „Brewers“ GOLD and later domestic varieties „Aroma“ and „Robusta“.

Thanks to the hops at that time, Petrovec LTD   was hiring 360 employees and several 1000 season workers,specially in the period of harvest (which was done by hand) from all over formal Yugoslavia.The Company was very carefull in human resource and 3 agriculture engineer were sent to specialisation education program (PhD studies) to Prague and they successfully finished PhD studies.

In that period started the execution of large hop warehouse with about     20 000 m2 capacity,built  with mutual contribution of all brewers and hop produceres from formal Yugoslavia.In  Backi  Petrovac was built the first pelletizer from US supplier, which is still in function.Company invested in 8 hops harvester, four dryers and  complete machinery necessary for the production and processing of hops.This resulted that Petrovec LTD became not just the biggest, but the most equipped Company for growing, processing and storage of  hops in formal Yugoslavia.

Destruction of hops growing and processing started in 80’s in last century when the Companies were separated and new Companies for growing,processing, trading and export  were established. Government stimulated the exporters which made a big profit while the producers could not covered the production costs .At the same time in Slovenia,Government secured national grant funding for producers, processors and tradors which resulted big development in hopfarm production.In Vojvodina, Government secured incentives only for tradors and exporters but not  for producers and hop farms.This resulted that hop growers started to decrease hop farms  because of their losses in production.

Sanctions also resulted that export of hops were stopped,and than economy crisis, the disintegration of the country and the mingling of the domestic market lead to significant decrease of hop farms and number of varieties,which were grown.From the other hand, the support  in the development of new varieties of hops was stopped by the Government, and the Company faced with huge difficulties in further development and investment in new technologies.

Nowdays, hop farm is started to grow,thanks to arrangement between Mr. Struhar Rastislav, dr. Kisgeci Jan and brewmaster Mr. Nikola Marjanovic.After this agreement,Company managed to acquire first  new american hop seedlings and with the help of Institute from  Novi Sad who provided domestic seedlings.Further   hops development was continued with leadership of Mr. Struhar Rastislava (Senior Manager), Mr Cefera Jan (Production leader)  and  master technologist Mr. Struhar Rastislav (Manager).

With the application of the latest methods of reproduction of hops and seedlings so-called “Invitro” at the Petrovec estate, the production of hops is spreading rapidly and we believe that our Company will be the core for the future development of production, processing and trade with hops in the future.

Manager, Agricultural Engineer Rastislav Struhar.