Serbia: Saving the raspberries

A new platform for raspberry farmers, the impact of climate change on wheat cultivation, new figures on the agriculture industry and international trade, and fruit companies representing Serbia abroad - Our weekly briefing on agriculture, food and nature news in Serbia.

A nice picture of raspberries.
Beeld: ©Tetiana Padurets
A new association will soon represent raspberry growers from multiple regions and work towards the modernization of the sector.

The Platform for Raspberry Development in Serbia from 2022 to 2025 has been announced

Upon the invitation of raspberry producer groups, the raspberry growers from the Raška region, Kolubara district, Čačak, Ivanjica, Osečine, Arilje, Vranje, Vranjska Banja gathered in growers cooperatives and associations, met in Belgrade at the end of September in order to form a working group that would create a "Raspberry Development Platform in Serbia 2022 - 2025”.

This should be done with the help of experts in the field of fruit growing, professors Dr. Zoran Keserović, from the Faculty of Agriculture in Novi Sad, Milan Prostran, an agroeconomic analyst, and associate from the Ministry of Agriculture, Mrs Vesna Radojičić. The platform will focus on professionalizing the raspberry industry in Serbia and will be in contact with the Government of Serbia.

According to the participants, the meeting was held at the right moment - at the moment when the new Government is being formed and at the moment when the export of Serbian raspberries to Germany, the biggest importer of Serbian berries decreased drastically. 

Mr. Nikola Mihailović, President of the Cooperative Union of Serbia and Mr. Božo Joković, Director of the Agricultural Cooperative "Agro Eko Voće" talked about how to proceed in raspberry production. Topics of berry prices, quality seedlings, new growing technologies and how to market raspberries so that both producers and exporters are satisfied, were discussed. "We had a turbulent decade behind us. The only bright spot was 2021, when the world demand for raspberries was high and the price was adequate. Guided by these facts, Serbian producers thought that this year would be successful as well. However,  climate conditions were not favorable this year, from cold spring to heavy showers, prices of inputs increased enormously, raspberries were not selling as in previous year due to the economic situation in the world, and farmers have never had production costs more expensive than this year”, said Jonel Subić, PhD from the Institute for Agricultural Economics.

In addition to all these problems in Serbia, there is also the problem of quality preservation of plantations, which Professor Keserović talked about. "We are all aware that raspberries will play a big role in the economic development of Serbia. We must work on technologies adapted to climate change. It is not possible to continue raspberry production with no more than one percent of the plantations under anti-hail nets, three to four percent of plantations with  irrigation system. We have to change that in order to have higher yields and to stop ‘looking at the sky’", said Professor Keserović.

Climate change reduces yields and quality of wheat

The impact of climate change on wheat production in terms of yield and quality of bread grain is much bigger than we can even imagine. Changes in weather conditions and weather extremes affect the wheat plant and the entire ecosystem that surrounds the plant - unfortunately not in a positive way, stated Mrs Jasna Mastilović from the Institute for Food Technologies.

The changed climatic environment in grain-producing regions is favorable for wheat pests (primarily insects and field mold), increasing the likelihood of their occurrences and their number. Thus the health safety of bread grain can be questionable. In addition to smaller grain size and lower yield, a consequence of tropical heat at the time of “pouring of wheat grains” is a disruption of synthesis of gluten, a key building substance of wheat grain which makes it a unique raw material for production of soft, elastic, airy bread. Short gluten molecules which are formed in such cases eventually result in an inelastic dough which is difficult to shape into bread loaves, rolls, pies and other specialties causing trouble to bakery industry. On the other hand, there were years in which the extreme climatic conditions had different consequences. 2010 and 2018 are remembered by stormy weather and continuous showers in the time of harvest due to which wheat could not be harvested for days. For that reason the wheat was soaked in rain in the fields and it started to germinate, which caused problems to bakers since they had to work with sticky, sensitive, unstable dough. In extreme cases, when technology couldn't help, bread loaves with dark crust and a gooey middle reached the consumers.

Consequences can be even more serious, especially if climatic conditions result in such changes which can endanger health of consumer. Such a situation happened in 2019 when the rain fall was extreme in early May and favored the development of Polish mold -fusarium. Polish molds can produce mycotoxin “deoxynivalenol” which causes nausea, and in larger quantities it can be even fatal. Due to joint and systematic activities of millers, bakers, phytosanitary and sanitary inspection services in 2019, contaminated wheat did not reach the tables of consumers.

€1 billion turnover in agriculture in Q2

The total value of sales and purchases of agricultural products, and goods in the field of forestry and fishing in the second quarter of this year is 65.5% higher in current prices relative to the same period last year, the Statistical Office of Serbia (RZS) stated.

Comparing the first six month sof this year with the same period in 2021, the total value of trade in these products increased by almost 41% (40.9%), and in constant prices, it increased by 15.2%.

RZS calculated that the total sales from agricultural enterprises and farms in Serbia amounted to around €1 billion. Observed by regions, the highest turnover in the first half of 2022 was in the Vojvodina region, with €627.3 million, of which €392.3 million came from agricultural farms and €211 million from companies.

The most traded was grain, which totaled €349.5 million, followed by vegetables (€195.7 million), livestock (€167.5 million), fruit, and grapes (€137.6 million). The turnover of fish for the first six months amounted to 57.2 million EUR.

Out of the fruit crop categories, in the first half of the year the sales of apples was 71,799 tons. The sale of other products was much lower, for example, potatoes only 6,098 tons, onions 6,143 tons, cabbage 4,226 tons, and beans only 43 tons.

In the meat industry, pork is in place with 47,736 tons sold and bought, followed by beef with 16,711 tons, and veal with only 389 tons.

Sugar company Sunoko to process €1 million tons of sugar beet  

Sunoko company has started a new sugar beet processing campaign, and this year it expects about one million tons of raw material from about 18,500 hectares of land and 160,000 tons of sugar produced.

Sugar beet arrived at the factories in Vrbas, Pecinci, and Kovacica at the end of September and the beginning of October. Sunoko stated that they are expecting a  good season this year as well, regardless of the late sowing and unfavorable weather conditions such as droughts during March and summer, and frost damage. “Sugar beet has shown that it is the queen of our fields this year as well. While other crops have significantly failed, we expect an average of over nine tons of sugar per hectare in Vojvodina's fields, which is 8% more than the five-year average of 8.3 tons per hectare,” said Sunoko General Manager Slobodan Kosutic.

Mr. Kosutic reiterated that last year the company recorded a record-high sugar yield of almost 10 tons per hectare despite the summer drought. “At the beginning of this year, the prices of other field crops were more attractive to farmers, which is why they decided to sow more of them. However, other crops are much more sensitive to drought, thus the level of earnings was not what they had expected. In this regard, sugar beet is much safer for liquidity planning, because there are no major yield failures and the price is known a year in advance,” Kosutic said.

Serbian fruit producers for the first time at the “Fruit attraction” fair in Madrid

For the first time ever eleven Serbian fruit companies participated at the “Fruit attraction” in Madrid, one of the leading fruit and vegetable fairs in Europe.

The presentation was supported by the Chamber of Commerce of Serbia and Serbian Development Agency . At the National Stand of Serbia big fruit producers and exporters Pollino Fruit, Apple World, Fruct Company, Ciric AgroTerra Optima, Frueko, Select Fruit,  Delta Agrar, Agro Bel System, Vija Product and Forma BM presented their products.

Serbian companies contracted export deals worth over five million euros mostly with partners from the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Spain, France, and India. "Fruit attraction" is one of the leading international fairs of fruit and vegetable producers in the world with a large capacity to promote global exports, and it is an important meeting and connection point for professionals in the sector.