Discovering Little Paris - How Do You Like Them Oranges?

South Africa used to have a lot of oranges.  One of our provinces was even called the Orange Free State.  Later, the ‘Orange’ part was dropped out of the name when the new provincial borders were formed.  A lot of our oranges grew in the Free State area.   Driving South of Johannesburg in winter, you could see all the orange trees in full bloom.  It was a sign of the agricultural prosperity of the nation.  Shortly after 1994, farmers started to abandon their crops and the oranges started coming from somewhere else.

I remember going to our local Fruit and Vegetable store and my father pointing out that the country was no longer as prosperous as it had been.  His proof?  He held up an orange.  On the fruit was a sticker which stated the product’s country of origin, which was Israel.  Over the years I got used to the fact that many of the fruits in South Africa were imported.  It was a part of life.  Besides, I enjoyed the taste of the Israeli oranges and I was ignorant to the implications of this change in the balance of local produce and imported products.

One of the things that I used to love about summers on Peljesac was the fruit.  I remember the local stores were stocked with local fruits – peaches, plums, figs, kiwi, mandarins, grapes and watermelons.  I could imagine a Croatian summer just by remembering the smells and tastes of fruit.  My trips to Janjina were not complete without an overindulgence in fruit.

2015 was different.  Shopping at the local stores proved disappointing when we realized that most of the fruits were imported.  What happened to the local producers?  Peljesac is still a primarily agricultural area.

In both scenarios, the free market economy had taken its toll, making it cheaper for supermarkets to stock imported goods rather than support local suppliers.  As a result, the local agriculture in both countries was suffering.  Or, that is what I thought.

One day my husband and I were shopping at our local store and we noticed that there were some fresh oranges in the fruit racks.  They looked good.   The country of origin of these oranges came as a shock, however.  The oranges had travelled as far as we had to get to Little Janjina.  Country of origin: South Africa.  So, in South Africa, we ate oranges from Israel.  In Janjina, we were eating oranges from South Africa.  It’s a small world with ridiculous market rules after all.

Maja Dezulovic

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