Serbia Newsflash Week 47

Meat sector news, organic farming, Western Balkan market integration, animal sector investments, COVID-19 measures - The week in Serbian agriculture

Close-up picture of a ripe apple.
©Mylene
Organic production is on the rise in Serbia. The number of subsidy requests in the organic sector doubled this year and according to the Ministry of Agriculture, the area used for organic farming increased by 236% in the past years.

Serbian Government introduces new measures to combat the pandemic

The Prime Minister announced new measures to combat the coronavirus pandemic, including shorter opening hours for cafes, clubs and restaurants until 9 pm. The schools will not be closed. Under the new measures, pharmacies, food deliveries, gas stations and companies working in shifts will be allowed to operate between 9 pm and 5 am while all other businesses will have to close. The new measures entered into force on Tuesday, November 17 and will remain in effect until December 1 on which date the government will decide whether to keep them in place as is, or impose stricter measures. The Prime Minister stated that the next measure would be a lockdown but added that the government does not intend to introduce it until it becomes necessary.

Traveling within Western Balkan (WB) region with ID cards only to be possible soon  

According to the Action Plan for Establishing a Common Regional Market, “green corridors” should be set up at the borders of the countries in the Western Balkan region. It will allow perishable goods such as fruits, vegetables, meat, and processed products to cross the border faster and undergo the customs procedure at any time of day, 24/7. According to the portal Nezavisne, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, Albania, and Montenegro should also agree on border crossings with expedited procedures and develop a system in 2021-2022 to enable all people in the region to travel to other Western Balkan countries with an ID card only. As of 2022, there should also be a system recognizing degrees of nurses, doctors, dentists, pharmacists, architects, and veterinary surgeons as equal in all the countries, while other kinds of degrees should be added later. In 2022-2024, a regulatory framework for a single payment system should be introduced. In 2023, bodies engaged in public procurements should start cooperating, and there should be a system enabling certificates (including veterinary ones) to be recognized in all the countries in the region, as well as border crossings, the portal reports.

Economic cooperation necessary for the prosperity of WB region

Economic cooperation is necessary for the prosperity of the region, and political support is essential for the establishment of a common regional market. This was concluded at a panel discussion held within the RE-SET SUMMIT online conference, dedicated to the common regional market. At the online conference, organized by Adria Media Group with the Serbian Chamber of Commerce (PKS), it was noted that investment in infrastructure had improved Serbia’s rating. Head of the PKS Sector for Strategic Analyses, Services, and Internationalization underlined that doing business in the region had to be as fast, simple, and cheap as possible. The ultimate goal is not the regional market but joint performance in the European market. Western Balkans Six Chamber Investment Forum Secretary-General Safet Gerxhaliu explained there is no success without cooperation in the region, adding that the path toward the EU should be observed from an economic perspective.

Serbian food industry atlas 

At a panel discussion titled Strengthening the Economy – National Brands and Innovations, held within the RE-SUMMIT conference, the Minister of Agriculture noted that adopting the decree on new technologies was motivated by outdated technologies, in addition to staff/labor shortages and necessary cost reductions (the sector's main problems). At the same conference the Minister of Agriculture stated that it is high time that Serbia focused on the food industry. According to him, the Ministry will create the first food industry atlas in the upcoming period and adopt a decree regarding new technologies. The Minister pointed out that the food industry ATLAS would not solve any problems, but it would at least indicate what Serbian agriculture has and what it lacked. “For example, we will know how much storage capacities there are in any part of our country, how many silos we have, what their capacities are, and who is in charge of them. Based on all that, we will know what we lack.” Silos are just an example, but with the agro ATLAS Serbia will have an overview of other areas as well.

Close-up of a curious pig's snout sticking out of behind a fence.
©Pexels
According to recent data, while Serbia imported €67.5 million worth of meat in the first nine months of 2020, exports reached €116 million.

Serbian meat imports twice as high as exports

According to recent data by the Serbian Chamber of Commerce (PKS), the total export of Serbian meat and meat products in the first nine months of 2020 stood at €67.5 million, while meat imports equaled ca. €116 million. As daily Politika explains, Serbian meat imports are growing, mainly in terms of meat used for processing. It mostly comes from the EU, where the prices of pork are down due to the African swine fever and the export ban for German meat exports to China. Owing to various circumstances related to the pandemic, in the mentioned period, Serbia exported only 570 tons of pork (worth around €1 million) and imported 16.6 thousand tons worth €44.5 million in total, mostly from Spain, Germany, and the Netherlands. The Secretary of the Association for Livestock and Livestock Processing within the PKS, stated for the daily that the consumption of meat in Serbia had decreased but that is partly a consequence of the reduced volume of work in the hospitality industry.

State subsidies for agricultural machinery to be limited in number of applications

The President of the Independent Association of Farmers of Serbia requested the Ministry of Agriculture not to reject over half of farmers’ requests for the subsidized purchasing of farm machinery. The state subsidy covers 70% of the total cost. He explained to the local news agency that a scoring list had been published, adding that, according to the announcements by the Minister of Agriculture, the state had decided to approve only 2,500 subsidy requests, but there are approximately 5.500 requests in total. “The public call for subsidies for young farmers (under 40) was launched last year, but it has not been realized yet due to the pandemic,” the President of the Association explained. The Ministry of Agriculture launched the call for subsidies covering 70% of farm machinery purchases for “young farmers” registered in the past year, but it was not emphasized then that the number of approvals would be limited. Another reason to approve all requests is the fact that there have been no other public calls this year, and the agriculture sector has been reporting good results despite the pandemic, accounting for an increasingly share in Serbia’s GDP, the President of Association pointed out.

Increased interest in organic production

The number of organic food producers’ requests for state subsidies this year have been twice as high, compared to the funds allocated in the state budget for that purpose. This was stated at an online meeting organized by the National Alliance for Local Economic Development (NALED). Senior Adviser following the Organic Production at Serbian Ministry of Agriculture, Mrs. Milic said that organic producers need support the most at the very beginning of their activities, upon entering the process of land conversion and obtaining certificates. Depending on the type of production, that period can last up to three years. “Subsidies for organic plant production are currently four times higher than those intended for conventional production, while subsidies for cattle breeders are 40% higher,” Mrs. Milic noted. She added that the area used for organic production had risen by 236% in the past ten years, but they still accounted for only 0.6% of the overall agricultural land used in Serbia.

New animal feed factory to be built at the outskirts of Belgrade

Al Dahra Serbia plans to build a new commercial and industrial complex for the production of animal feed, according to a request for deciding on the need for an environmental impact assessment study submitted to the Belgrade City Administration. The complex will be built in Kovilovo (outskirts of Belgrade) and the construction will be done in five stages and should include several production lines, storage space, an administration building, and several auxiliary buildings on an area of 95 thousand m2. The factory will be raised on agricultural land close to the motorway Zrenjanin-Belgrade.