Serbia: Towards Green and Digital

Green week in Belgrade, agro digitalization coming in 2023, increased agriculture budget and new subsidies, increased wehat sowing costs and rakija association urging the government to crack down on illegal distilleries - Our weekly briefing on agriculture, food and nature news in Serbia

People posing for a picture
Beeld: ©Netherlands Embassy Belgrade
Participants at the Going green – Transforming the concrete jungle event in Belgrade

Going Green – Transforming the concrete jungle

Withing the scope of Green Cities Serbia project, a series of events have been organized in Serbia last week marking it a “Green week”. The first one was a conference “Going green – Transforming the concrete jungle” held in Belgrade. Anne-Sietske Brinks, Charge d’affairs of the Dutch Embassy in Serbia opened the conference and highlighted the joint efforts of the Embassy and a consortium project partners to facilitate the green urban transition in Serbia. Serbia has ambitious plans in this field, that is, by 2025, at least a quarter of urban spaces in cities should be green. “Worldwide 1 out of 2 people live in a city, so it is fair to say the future is urban. And to make it a proper future, we need to change our ways. Because at the current rate, cities consume 78% of all energy and produce 70% of all greenhouse emissions,” said Anne-Sietske Brinks.

More than eighty Serbian architects, urbanists, policy makers and business developers discussed the added value of greenery on buildings, being green-blue roofs and green walls. Jan Henk Tigelaar from Rooftop Revolution Amsterdam project shared the Dutch experience in introducing greenery on the top of the buildings. Green roofs contribute to a joint green space of all tenants, increases the value of real estate, decreases the heat during hot months and much more. Christiaan Bakker from Sempergreen and Petr Kafonek from Nophadrain elaborated benefits of green walls and intensive and extensive green roofs.

There is work to be done in order to achieve the ambition of Serbian government of 25% of green urban areas by 2025. Antoine Avignon from EU Delegation to Serbia supported exchange of experiences but also reminded the audience that there is no universal recipe for success and that all solutions should be tailored to local needs. “There is a potential for going green in Serbia and it should be unlocked” concluded Mr Avignon.

Within the “Green week” activities 20.000 tulips supplied by Jub Holland were planted at the iconic fortress of Belgrade and consortium partners took part at Conference for Urban planners in city of Nis.

Ministry of Agriculture announces E-Agrar system launching in 2023

The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Water Management announced that the E-Agrar system would be launched in 2023, which will enable the online registration of agricultural holdings and further speed up the processing of requests, creating the conditions for all subsidy requests received during the year to be paid in the same year.

The E-Agrar system will enable the submission of requests for registration, changes and deletion of data from the register of agricultural holdings (RPG), requests for incentives in agriculture, faster approval and payment of incentives, the Ministry announced. “This electronic system is the first big step towards the creation of an integrated administrative and control system of state incentives in agriculture (IACS), i.e. a system for the implementation and control of direct payments and subsidies within the framework of rural development measures,” reads the Ministry statement.

As announced, in the coming period, the Paying Agency will round off the information system that will enable efficient payment of incentives while significantly shortening the request processing time. During the implementation of the IPARD III program, the plan is to switch from a manual mode of work to an electronic one, which would considerably speed up the process, but also strengthen the level of control, reducing the influence of the human factor in work errors and enabling better monitoring of the work process in terms of duration and efficiency, the announcement reads.

The budget of the Ministry of Agriculture increased

The budget of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Water Management of Serbia for 2022 will be increased by €141 million after the rebalancing and will amount to €670.9 million, which is almost 5.3 percent of the tax revenues of the Serbian budget, the Ministry announced. An additional €65.8 million were provided for direct payments related to the milk subsidy, basic incentives for plant production and incentives in animal husbandry, and €24.5 million for rural development measures. As announced, in addition to extraordinary measures to help sunflower producers, sugar beet producers will also receive financial support in the amount of €300 EUR per hectare in 2023, up to a maximum of 500 hectares, for a yield of at least 50 tons per hectare of payable sugar beet.

Sugar beet subsidies granted for big businesses

Serbian farmers were surprised by the decision of the Serbian government to grant subsidies of €300 to sugar beet producers, Jovica Jaksic, President of the Independent Association of Serbian Farmers, told Beta news agency. He added that farmers were curious about who asked for that subsidy when the majority of small and medium-sized producers had shut down that production in order not to accumulate losses.

Mr. Jaksic said that the decision favors big businessmen in the Serbian agriculture sector, who will be entitled to subsidies of €300 per hectare for the 2023 crop, on the condition that they deliver the entire yield of sugar beet on the contracted areas to sugar producers. The government will pay the money to the sugar producers who will then forward those funds to the sugar beet producers for a maximum of 500 hectares and on the condition that the production per hectare is at least 50 tons.

According to Dragan Kleut, President of the Association of Banat Farmers, small producers shut down production because the sugar refineries “robbed” them by enormously reducing the value of sugar beets due to the arbitrary assessment of “dirt,” i.e. soil residues on the yield. The Secretary of the Association for Plant Production and Food Industry in the Serbian Chamber of Commerce (PKS), Aleksandar Bogunovic, said that the subsidies were approved to increase sugar beet production. “The reason for granting subsidies is that the surface areas under sugar beet have been reduced to only about 30.000 hectares, so it is possible that the sugar refineries will not have enough raw materials,” Bogunovic said.

Sowing of wheat the most expensive ever

Serbia's most expensive sowing of wheat yet has not been completed despite the fact that October has passed, which was the optimal deadline for finishing the job. Farmers, however, say that more land could be sowed with wheat than last fall. The sowing of wheat has been encumbered by a difficult corn harvest, which was impeded by rain.

According to Independent Association of Farmers of Serbia President Jovica Jaksic, however, wheat crops will be sowed on more land than in 2021. He added that, according to rough estimates, the sowing of wheat was 70 percent complete and the crop could be sowed on over 700.000 hectares of land, which is more than last year when wheat crops were sowed on 650.000 hectares of land.

Union of Banat Farmer Associations president Dragan Kleut has said that wheat crops, which yielded around 4.2 tons per hectare this year, were being sowed for crop rotation and to avoid diseases that target certain crops, and not because it was profitable.

Association of rakija producers urges the government to stop illegal sales

The Association of Rakija Producers of Serbia asked the government to immediately stop the illegal sale of locally produced brandy called rakija and to begin, as stated, uncompromising implementation of the Law on Strong Alcoholic Beverages. “Although the state budget loses hundreds of millions of euros annually due to this situation, those responsible for the implementation of the Law and the fight against illegal alcohol trade generally do not do their job, while some state bodies and institutions even actively support and promote the gray market,” stated the Association of Rakija Producers of Serbia. It was pointed out that Serbia has a good and modern Law on Strong Alcoholic Beverages in force, but its key provisions are not implemented, which results in the flourishing of illegal production and consumption of rakija. As emphasized, illegally produced rakija, without a mark of origin, health control and collection of taxes and excise duties, is publicly sold at every step.

“Across Serbia, from down town Belgrade, through tourist centers, to green markets in cities and villages, hundreds of different festivals, fairs, rakija quality evaluations and similar events are organized, most often to encourage tourism and traditional production. There, the illegal market is promoted, rakija produced on farms for own consumption, is sold mostly without any indication of origin, and large sums of money are made in the gray zone, which ends up in the pockets of individuals,” the statement specified.