The story of the journey of twenty thousand tulips from the Netherlands to Serbia

The Netherlands' tulip donation to Serbia, rising food inflation, new figures from the Serbian meat industry, and not enough Futog cabbage being available for export - Our weekly briefing on  agriculture, food and nature news in Serbia.

People in suits planting tulips.
Beeld: ©Mila Mirkovic
The planting of 20 thousand tulips at the iconic fortress of Belgrade by city officials and representatives of the Dutch Embassy in Belgrade

Netherlands donates 20.000 bulbs of a new tulip variety to Belgrade

Anne-Sietske Brinks, the Deputy Head of Mission of the Kingdom of the Netherlands together with a member of the City Council of Belgrade, Ms. Ruzica Belanovic, planted a new variety of tulips, named after the Serbian architect Jelisaveta Nacic. Ms. Belanovic pointed out that the City of Belgrade was very grateful to the Embassy of the Netherlands for the donation and  was highly appreciative of  the gesture, given that the new tulip variety is named “Jelisaveta” after the first Serbian woman architect.

“The new tulip variety will be seen in the spring and the residents of the capital city, as well as tourists who visit Belgrade, especially Kalemegdan fortress, a symbol of the capital city, will enjoy its beautiful petals. With gratitude to the Embassy, we hope to continue the good cooperation that we’ve had so far,” Belanovic pointed out.

Ms. Brinks emphasized that a total of 20 thousand bulbs had been donated to the city of Belgrade. “That is a symbol of our joint participation in the “Green Cities” project. The Government of the Republic of Serbia has the ambitious target of having 25% urban areas covered in greenery by 2025. The  public-private partnership project “Green Cities Serbia”  is trying to help Serbia achieve this goal. We want the Jelisaveta tulip to be a symbol of our joint cooperation and for Serbia to achieve their ambitious goals” Ms. Brinks highlighted. Jos Beelen from the company JUB Holland who provided the tulip bulbs explained that it takes 20 years to bring a new variety to the market. As he noted, this is a variety that is characterized by a multitude of colors and that is suitable for planting on both public green areas and in home conditions.

Food inflation 23% year to year

Milan Trajkovic, Deputy General Manager of the Economic Research and Statistics Department at the National Bank of Serbia (NBS), said that food prices as a whole had increased by 23% y-o-y and that long-life milk went up in price by 42.8% y-o-y. “Factors that influenced the price increase are the growth of the costs of primary agricultural production, due to the huge increase in the prices of fertilizers, wheat, corn and other feed for livestock, then comes the high growth of the production costs of the processors, because the price of paper and plastic packaging has risen sharply. Finally, there’s the demand, which has grown even under these circumstances, and continues to do so,” said Trajkovic during the presentation of the NBS November inflation report.

The Statistical Office (RZS) reported that the prices of reproductive materials, work equipment and agricultural services in the third quarter of this year, compared to the same quarter last year, had increased by 28.7%. The highest price increase was recorded for mineral fertilizers and amounted to 126.6%. When comparing these prices in the third quarter of this year to the second, the data show that there was a decrease of 2.0%, and the price of mineral fertilizers had the biggest impact on the decline here, with -10.4%, stated RZS.

Does Serbia produce enough meat for itself?

In Serbia, 496.000 tons of meat are produced annually (various types). According to data from the Serbian Chamber of Commerce, production of pork is around 300.000 tons, beef 78.000 tons and poultry 118.000 tons.

Serbia does not produce enough pork to cover the demand of local market thus compensate by import, at least about ten percent. In the first nine months of 2022, 31.000 tons of pork worth €76.8 million were imported. At the same time, 3.500 tons of beef and only 550 tons of pork were exported, while the export of poultry meat was around 3.800 tons.

Serbia mainly imports meat from Spain, Hungary, Germany, the Netherlands and Denmark, while exports are made to the countries of the CEFTA region.

According to agroeconomist Mr. Branislav Gulan, animal husbandry in Serbia has been declining for years. He underlines that in 1990, Serbia annually produced around 650.000 tons of all kinds of meat and that three and a half decades ago, there were more than 5.5 million pigs in the barns of Serbia.

Today, there are officially up to 2.7 million heads, while livestock farmers estimate that Serbia have fewer than two million pigs. According to him, a medium-developed country must have as many pigs as there are inhabitants, and if you take into account that Serbia has around 6.8 million inhabitants and fewer than two million pigs, the situation is clear. "The export of pork in 1990 was worth 762 million dollars. There is no agricultural or livestock product that has brought a greater foreign exchange inflow to Serbia after 1990s than pig meat export. It is estimated that the production of pork in Serbia in the first quarter of 2022 recorded a dramatic decline. It is even 48.2 percent less compared to the same time last year," says Gulan. According to data from the credit rating company CompanyWall,  a total of 828 companies are engaged in the processing and preservation of meat and meat products in Serbia. All together in 2021, they generated slightly more than €1.4 billion.

The first on the list of the most successful companies engaged in the production and processing of meat and meat products, according to the profit achieved in 2021, is Matijevic Meat processor  from Novi Sad.  Data from CompanyWall show that last year it recorded a profit slightly above €13.6 million, which continued the trend of growth in the past three years. Second on the list of most successful meat processors from last year is the company Carnex  from Vrbas, which has been operating for more than 60 years. The profit of this company in 2021 was almost €9.4 million.

State Commodity reserves are buying 150.000 tons of corn

The State Commodity Reserves initiated the purchase of up to 150.000 tons of corn from this year's crop at a price of €0.34/kg VAT. It was announced on the Commodity Reserves website that the amount purchased from an active and registered agricultural family farm cannot be less than 10 tons.

Farms and other business entities can register for sale electronically, and contracting will be done in accordance with free storage capacities and the needs of the Commodity Reserves. There are several requirements for purchase of corn, e.g.: the corn has been naturally or artificially dried; in grain; healthy and ripe, without signs of mold and not infected with plant diseases and pests.

No Futog cabbage for export this year

Protected cabbage variety from the village Futog in Vojvodina is well known in the region of Western Balkan. Half of this year's Futog cabbage crop has already been sold, considering that this year, this variety of cabbage was planted on only 35 hectares. The “Futoski Kupus Association” said that this cabbage with geographical indication will not be available for export this year. The available produce   will not even meet the demand of the domestic market stated the Association’s President Miroljub Jankovic.

Mr. Jankovic said that this year's yields, due to droughts and frost at the beginning of September, are lower than in previous years. “With 35 hectares, we will have about 1.000 tons of cabbage,” Jankovic told the newspaper Dnevnik.

He pointed out that the Futog cabbage can be recognized by its color because it is whiter than other varieties, has fewer veins, has thin and flexible leaves and weighs 1.5-3.5 kg. Jankovic said that the Futog cabbage was planted on only 35 hectares this summer, although last year it was planted on approximately 60 hectares. Just like last autumn, 1 kg of the indigenous Futog cabbage costs €0.7 and the cabbage that is sold below that price is not the real Futog cabbage, notes Jankovic. “The price of cabbage, the costs of certification and a lot of work around it has deterred many vegetable farmers from this indigenous variety and made them switch to other hybrids,” said Jankovic. He also emphasized that other varieties of cabbage were planted less than last year, on only about 150 hectares, instead of about 250 hectares as in 2021. Vegetable grower Milan Medic from Futog sowed hybrid cabbage and, as he said, he is satisfied with the yield, thanks to good crop management. He expects to be able to sell the whole crop through local processors, who buy it and ferment it. According to Medic, wholesale price of cabbage is €0.2/kg, so whoever has about 40 tons per hectare will have some profit.

Serbian breweries recovering from pandemic  

The beer sector in Serbia is led by three large companies - Heineken Serbia, Carlsberg Serbia and Apatinska Pivara Apatin (APA). They are followed by the brewery from Nis, and there are also smaller producers in the market, as well as a large number of so-called artisanal or craft breweries, writes the Business portal.

According to data from the CompanyWall rating agency, a total of 101 companies are engaged in the production of beer in Serbia. The revenues of the beer sector are growing, thus in 2021, these companies had a total revenue of €295.7 muillion, which was €8.5 million more than in the pre-pandemic 2019. The best business results in 2021 were recorded by Heineken Serbia, which employs 300 people in the country, making a net profit of €13.6 million. In second place, according to net profit, is Carlsberg Serbia, which employs 448 workers and had a profit of €5.76 million last year. Apatinska Pivara employed 661 workers last year, and its total profit was €2.58 million according to data from the credit rating company “CompanyWall”. Niska Pivara is fourth on the list with half a million in profit.

Among the beer producers who achieved the highest profit in 2021 are two leading craft breweries that produce craft beer - Dogma and Kabinet, making profits of 140 and 50 thousand euros respectively. A total of 62 small craft breweries are registered in Serbia, writes the portal.