Serbia: The state of the harvest

High international prices for Serbian frozen fruits, apple harvest underway, the size of organic farmland increasing, news of the price cap on food and the fate of Serbian corn - Our briefing on the last week in Serbian agriculture

Red and green apples
Beeld: ©James Yarema
The apple harvest in well underway in Serbia. Although Serbian apples are recognized in various regional markets including the Middle East and East Asia, producers report low prices and that apple farmers are at a severe disadvantage in price negotiations with retailers.

Fruit export from Serbia was lower but the prices were higher

According to a new report by the Statistical Office of Serbia (RSZ), the land area used for fruit plantations in 2021 was 188.872 ha, which is almost 1% less compared to the previous year.

From the total area of farmland used for fruit production, more than half of the total orchard area is in very good and excellent condition. The most numerous permanent fruit crops are plum trees, apples, raspberries and cherries. The area used for plums is 72.6 thousand hectares, which is 38.4% of the total fruit area in Serbia. Apple orchards amounts to 14.3%; raspberry to 11% and cherry orchards account with 10.3% in relation to the total farmland used for fruit cultivation. There is an increasing number of new, intensive orchards with modern growing technology and planting density.

Fruit production in 2021 amounted to 1.436.122 tons, which is about 11.3% less compared to the previous year. The production of raspberries in 2022 is expected to increase by 4% compared to last year and increase of 6% is expected in sour cherry production (RZS).

Fruit Export: January-August 2022


Quantity (t)

Value (000.000 EUR)










Source: Custom Service

Fruit Export: January – August 2021


Quantity (t)

Value (000.000 EUR)










Source: Custom Service

Serbia is a net exporter of fruit and the table below presents export trends for the period January-August 2021/22, which clearly shows the increase of fruit prices. Statistics of foreign trade exchange of fruits in 2021 shows that about 483.5 thousand tons of fruit, valued at €824 million, was exported and about 294 thousand tons of fruit, with a value of €266.7 million, was imported.

The above tables show that the prices have been higher in 2022 compared to the previous year. For the period January-August 2022, 283.619 tons of fruit worth €557.4 million was exported. In the same period of the previous year, 315.015 tons of fruit worth €466.4 million was exported. Quantitatively Serbia exported 10% less fruit than in 2021, but the value is 20% higher compared to the same period of the previous year.

The group of producers of fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables of the Serbian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PKS) stated that the export of frozen raspberries from Serbia dropped during the eight months of this year by 33% compared to the same period in 2021, but despite this, higher revenue was achieved. The statement said that from January to August of this year, about 44.000 tons of frozen raspberries were delivered to foreign markets, compared to 66.000 tons last year. According to the statement, despite the lower volume of the export, for the first eight months the realized revenue was slightly higher than €229 million, in contrast with the same period in 2021 when the export of this fruit brought in €202 million.

PKS explains that the reason for this is this year's higher price of raspberries because the average purchase price for a kilogram in 2021 was €3.5, and this year it was at €5 or higher. However, the Chamber warns that a price reduction is expected in the coming period, primarily due to a significant drop in demand in the US and Western Europe. The drop in demand for frozen raspberries is uneven and ranges from 10% in France to as much as 40% in Germany, which are the two largest markets for frozen Serbian raspberries.

France and Germany together buy almost half of the total exported quantity of this product, PKS reiterates. The Chamber notes that estimates on the ground indicate that the 2022 raspberry season in Serbia brought slightly more than 90.000 tons of fruit and that around 15.000 tons of frozen raspberries from last year's harvest remained unsold in cold storage.

Apple harvest in full swing

The apple picking season has started a month ago. Varieties like Gala, Red delicious are being picked. Many fruit growers complain about reduced yields and that the current price on the local market does not commensurate with the work invested and input costs (like pesticides and other chemicals). That is why fruit growers are currently not selling the new crop, but are storing  it and waiting for a higher price. This is probably the reason why the new apples cannot be found on the local market.

A producer from Novi Slankamen, Mr. Stefan Čonić, has not sold a single kilogram of his “red delicacies” apples. He has left the whole yield in cold storage, waiting for a better price. “The wholesale price of apples in Serbia is €0.34/kg. That means that the apple grower makes only €0.085/kg after deducting all the production costs", Čonić said. "Logistics costs have increased since last season, also we are concerned that the price of apples will be lower on foreign markets during the coming autumn and winter season, and the prices of packaging and raw materials have risen as well. Nominally, we have a price increase due to those problems, but realistically  due to mentioned issues, the price is lower than previous season", the producer explains. 

Andreja Stanarević from Polino agrar underlines that the price of apples is not adequate on the EU market. "Big producers such as the Italians and the French are currently offering apples below the production price, because they fear that during the winter there may be a shortage of electricity due to the war in Ukraine and that their apples, if kept in refrigerators, will perish without electricity. That is why they are being sold, almost for a pittance", Stanarević  said.

Mr. Stanarević also explained that that trade in apples with foreign markets is to take place in the coming period. It is good, he said, that Serbian apples have become recognizable on the markets of the Middle and Far East and that the quantities shipped to these destinations increase from season to season.

On the other hand, there are small producers in Vojvodina, who claim that they are practically “blackmailed” by the large retailers because these small producers are at a considerable disadvantage, having to comply with the purchasing rules of the retailers. They say that even if a price of €0.34/kg is agreed upon, it does not mean that it will be paid, because when the time comes, the middleman will argue that the quality of apples did not meet first quality class standards. Thus, at the end, a kilogram will cost even less than €0.25. Producers who do not have their own cold storages are the most vulnerable, because they have to pay extra for the storage of apples. The lease of a cold store costs €120 /month for ten tons of apples. That price does not include the electricity the refrigerator uses to keep the apples fresh.

The amount of farmland used for organic cultivation in Serbia increased

Last year the area used for organic plant production in Serbia amounted to 23.527 hectares and were 12.2% higher than in 2020, reports the latest edition of the Organic news magazine of the National Association for Organic Production Serbia Organica

Last year, the largest portion of the organic farmlands were was used for organic fruit production (36%), followed by a smaller share of land under cereals (28%), fodder plants (19%), while the smallest amount of land was planted and sown with organic vegetables and medicinal herbs.

By region, organic production was most prevalent in Vojvodina, where these areas accounted for 38.36% of the total land area, followed by the region of Southern and Eastern Serbia with a participation of 31.58%, reports the Tanyug news agency.

Price limit for certain foodstuffs to be revoked soon

In the debate “Food Market in Serbia - from Surpluses to Shortages”, organized by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation in Belgrade, the State Secretary in the Ministry of Trade, Tourism and Telecommunications, Mr. Uros Kandic, stated that it is still unknown how long the prices of basic foodstuffs will remain limited, but that for some, the limit could soon be revoked.

The Decree limiting the price of basic foodstuffs will remain in force until September 30. Commenting on the recent shortages of sugar and milk, Mr. Kandic said that it is necessary to point out how specific it was. “By limiting the price of a kilogram of sugar, the prices of larger packages increased, so those who would normally buy larger quantities bought sugar by the kilogram, and that created a shortage. As for milk, there are structural problems in agriculture, but we are working on it and there will be milk,” said Mr. Kandic. Agroeconomic analyst and former director of the Commodity Exchange in Novi Sad, Mr. Zarko Galetin believes that the Decree had to be adopted, but that it is questionable whether it is necessary to last this long.  Mr. Galetin added that he also believes that there is no fear of a shortage of basic foodstuffs or raw materials, but that it is possible that there will be less quantity for export.

Catastrophic corn yields

Farmers in Serbia have started harvesting corn, and the yields on the best fields are a maximum of about four tons per hectare, and on some fields, the yield only reaches a few hundred kilograms (as much as 90% less than the average), the Beta Agency reported.

“The crop is extremely bad, we predicted that it would be 80% less, and now we see on the ground that it is 90% less than the average,” Mr. Dragan Kleut, the President of the Banat Farmers' Association, stated for the Beta news agency. Mr. Kleut added that the yields on some fields are less than a ton, only 600 kg per hectare. Average yields in Serbia, when the climatic conditions are relatively good, are from six to eight tons, and the maximum is around 15 tons.

According to the head of the association, the corn harvest could have started even earlier because the plant and the corn cobs were “burned” by the high temperatures during the summer, but now the rains have increased the humidity of the grain, and this would require additional costs for drying. “From nothing we got an even bigger nothing,” Mr. Kleut commented.

The President of the Association of Stig and Macva farmers in the municipality of Malo Crnice, Mr. Drasko Zivkovic, said that the harvest of corn in that area has not yet started on a massive scale, but in the field that has been weeded and where all agrotechnical measures have been applied, the crop is four tons, which is 30-40% less than last year.

The President of the Independent Farmers' Association of Serbia, Mr. Jovica Jaksic, who sowed 130 hectares with corn, said that the yields are different, from region to region, but that they have a common trait: they are catastrophic. “There are fields where all agrotechnical measures have been implemented and the yield is 1.6 to 1.7 tons per hectare,” said Mr. Jaksic.