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Slovakia
Asparagus tops Slovak vegetable exports

ASPARGUS is the only vegetable Slovakia successfully exports in large amounts.
The country started growing asparagus at the beginning of the 1990s, but its biggest producer has already exported 700 tonnes this year.
Asparagus has become an example of how a product can establish itself on the overcrowded European market.
"The rise of asparagus does not lie in perfectly-managed production, but in its trade," Gejza Blaas, director of the Research Institute of Economy of Agriculture and Food Industry, told the Pravda daily. Asparagus' success is based on well-planned logistics, i.e. a supply of high quality asparagus in large amounts made available to customers within 24 hours.
In the Záhorie region, the Veľké Leváre-based Asparagus company has built the biggest asparagus farm in Central Europe. The company, which started in 1991, gradually extended production from 33 hectares to 260. Now, the vegetable, which was almost forgotten in Slovakia, is being sold again, though only in large cities and in Záhorie.
"The fact that asparagus has become a commodity that some retail chains have tried to use to draw customers to their shops has helped sales," Jozef Artim from Asparagus told Pravda.
During a recent sale, Tesco was selling a half-kilo package of asparagus for Sk29.9 (less than one euro). In Germany or Switzerland, such an amount of asparagus costs about €3.
The especially hot spring reduced export prices of asparagus this year because the harvest started almost three weeks earlier that usual. Therefore, Slovak exporters began selling on the most important international market, Switzerland, at the same times as their competitors from Greece and Spain. "We had to sell more asparagus in order to secure the same income as last year," said Artim. The company's annual turnover is about Sk90 million.


Bratislava
New tunnel tested for safety

Smoke filled the Sitina tunnel during a drill to test its ventilation and emergency response system on May 30.
photo: Jana Liptáková

ONE OF the two tubes that make up the Sitina tunnel, which will officially be opened later this month, was filled with smoke when a fire broke out inside it on May 30.
Fire fighters rushed to the scene to rescue and evacuate passengers, including children and disabled, who were trapped in cars and a bus. Fortunately, it was all just a drill, designed to test the tunnel's ventilation and emergency response system.
Marcel Jánošík, spokesman for the National Freeway Company (NDS), told the SITA news wire that the test went as planned. "All parameters are set properly," he said. "The smoke was kept in the upper part of the tunnel and ventilated outside."
The tunnel will ceremonially open on June 23. That day its two tubes will become the site of a rich cultural programme. At 13:45 F1 racer David Coulthard will drive across the tunnel, the Nový Čas daily wrote. Other attractions include a hot-air balloon, in-line skaters, simulations of car and helicopter accidents, and concerts by Zdenka Predná, Hex and Mango Molas.
The 1.5-kilometre tunnel below Sitina Hill in Bratislava consists of two, two-lane tubes equipped with modern technology that controls ventilation, lighting, traffic and closure during accidents. Its construction cost Sk4.5 billion (€134 million ).
The tunnel is part of the D2 freeway. It is the last strip to be completed of the freeway going to the Czech Republic from Hungary via Bratislava. It will ease part of the traffic on Lamačská Cesta and Mlynská Dolina, which are two of the most congested areas in the capital.


Bratislava
Flawed Solaris buses taken off streets

ALL THE new gas-powered Solaris buses in the fleet of Bratislava's public transport company (DPB) were taken out of service on May 30, the Sme daily reported.
The DPB decided to withdraw the Polish-built buses immediately after inspections were carried out following a fire on one of the vehicles on May 26.
After the incident, twenty of the 22 Solaris buses stayed in service until May 30. All 22 vehicles are still under warranty. The transport company plans to contact the Polish manufacturer, but has already said the buses will only be returned as a last resort.


Bratislava
Frankovka festival in Old Town Hall courtyard

THE THREE-DAY Frankovka Festival opened on May 31 in the courtyard of the Old Town Hall, the TASR news wire wrote.
Ten producers of this red wine took part in the second year of the festival by offering high quality wines, such as late harvest, cabinet and barrique wines.
For vintners, this event commemorates the 240th anniversary of a letter from Empress Maria Theresa that recognized Frankovka wine from Rača (a Bratislava borough) as a drink worthy of an emperor's table.

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