Serbian import tax a success for dairy farmers

Price caps on meat products removed, EU support for green transitioning, rising prices, new developments in research and in organic farming- Our weekly briefing on agriculture, food and nature news in Serbia

Beeld: ©Robert Bye

Government imposes import tax on milk and dairy products

Serbian dairy farmers have been protesting for months, demanding increases in premiums and subsidies, payment of government debts towards farmers and an introduction of an import ban on milk and meat products to Serbia. Last week the Serbian government adopted a Decision to impose an import tax of €0.12 per liter of milk and €0.25 EUR per kilogram for cheese. Minister of Agriculture Ms. Jelena Tanaskovic has informed the Agriculture Parliamentary Committee of the decision.

The Chairman of the parliamentary committee, Mr. Marijan Risticevic, stated Serbia signed the Stabilization and Association Agreement with the EU and that imposed taxes are not in line with the agreement. You risk being punished by the EU. What will happen to our fruits and vegetables if the EU assess that Serbia is cheating on the Stabilization and Association Agreement and that we imposed an import tax without their permission,” said Risticevic.

Nenad Budimovic, the secretary of the Association for Breeding and Processing of Livestock Products of the Serbian Chamber of Commerce, stated that an import tax was a good measure that should protect local farmers. He believes that imposing a levy on the import of milk was a method that could regulate market conditions at the moment, but he also added that at the same time, the regulation and protection of the local production of milk and dairy products must be improved.

The President of the Association of Milk Producers of Macva District, Goran Vasic, praised the decision of the Serbian government and pointed out that it was a good measure for milk producers. “It is a forced decision, but the best possible one under these circumstances and the Ministry and the government have our full support for its implementation. Since a complete ban on milk imports is unfeasible, import taxes are the next best solution,” said Vasic.

Agricultural economist Mr. Milan Prostran underlined that imposing an import tax on milk and dairy products was a forced and temporary measure, which would satisfy the demands of the associations of livestock and milk producers, but will not really solve the problems in the cattle breeding sector.  As he explained, that problem cannot be solved just by selective measures. “Regardless of the fact that Serbia signed the Stabilization and Association Agreement with the European Union back in 2008 and shortly after liberalized the market of our total food production toward the EU, there are clauses that allow countries to impose measures to discourage imports in a shorter period of time. That's why the measure lasts until June because according to the agreements, it cannot last longer than six months,” said Prostran. He believes that during that time there will not be any reaction from Brussels.

The EU is the main trade partner of Serbia and more than 60% of the foreign trade exchange with the EU is in the food sector.

Government removes limitation on prices of certain kinds of meat      

The Government of Serbia has adopted  a decision by which the limitation on the prices of certain kinds of pork and poultry were removed, reports business portal Blic. Specifically, Articles 7 and of the Decree were removed, namely, limitations on certain kinds of pork meat (boneless pork leg, boneless pork shoulder, pork neck with bones and pork loin with bones) and fresh whole poultry. The obvious question now is whether the removal of these limitations will lead to price increases as well. "We won’t let the price increase to happen. People should not worry! Our primary interest remains to secure stable prices and to have regular market supply," said Tomislav Momirovic, Minister of internal and foreign trade of Serbia for Blic business portal.

EU support in green transition in Serbia

The European Union Delegation to Serbia, the Serbian Ministry of Environmental Protection and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) have given recognition and financial awards to the creators of 16 new business solutions to speed up the Serbian economy's green transition.

Thanks to EU funding, these solutions have received financial support of €726 thousand in total with a view to implementation this year, the UNDP site reports. The prize-winning solutions came from companies in both the public and private sector, civil society organizations, research institutions and local government, and were picked among the 140 proposals submitted in four public calls in 2022. “It was thanks to the EU support for the Green Agenda in Serbia initiative that the 16 best solutions had been selected for a positive impact on the environment and on the health and well-being of people across Serbia”, said Emanuele Giaufret, the Head of the EU Delegation to Serbia. Carrying out the prize-winning solutions, the future contribution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, transitioning to renewable fuel, reusing waste to manufacture new products, improving air quality and preserving biodiversity were emphasized.  

Prices of fish and agro products higher by one-third compared to 2021

Prices of agricultural and fishery products were higher by 31.2% in December than in the same month of the previous year, published the Statistical Office of Serbia (RZS). As stated, the annual figure for 2022 was 25.7% higher than in 2021. RZS stated that livestock products recorded the highest price increase – 81.6% between the two Decembers, as well as livestock & poultry (36.1%) and grain (22.3%). If entire years are compared, the prices of grain increased the most (33.5%), then the prices of livestock products (32.5%), and livestock & poultry (26.9%). In the last month of 2022, the prices of agriculture and fisheries were lower compared to November with an average of 1.6%, which was mostly influenced by the drop in grain prices of 6.3%.

Serbian organic food at Biofach Fair

For the fifth year in a row Serbian organic food producers presented their products at the Serbian national stand at the BIOFACH International Organic Food Fair in Nuremberg, Germany. "The Serbian companies offered visitors and potential business partners a wide range of products made of fresh, dried and frozen fruit and vegetables, fruit purees, dried mushrooms, cereals, organic pasta, fruit spreads and organic honey," reads the press release of the Serbian Chamber of Commerce (PPKS). Bojana Lalovic of the PKS Center for the Organization of Fairs said that the Serbian exhibitors had been preparing for the fair over the past several months, with the support of PKS and the Swiss trade promotion program for international economic development (SIPPO).

Construction of BIO4 campus complex to start this year

“The construction of the BIO4 Campus, as one of the biggest projects in science, is expected to start this year and be completed at the end of 2025, announced Ms Jelena Begovic, Minister of science, technological development and innovations of Serbia for the Novosti daily. The complex will feature faculty, institute, science and technology park and conference and multimedia center buildings, according to the website of the Government of Serbia. "The construction of facilities of 110 thousand square meters has been estimated at around €200 million, and equipment worth €100 million has been envisaged as well. The construction will be financed from the budget, and most likely from a loan by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development," the Minister explained. According to her, this campus will be important because it will gather and concentrate experts, knowledge, ideas, entrepreneurs, large companies, in order to meet the challenges posed by the nature, but also the people, as efficiently as possible.

Fitch agency confirms Serbia’s credit rating at BB+ level

The Fitch rating agency has confirmed Serbia's credit rating at BB+ level, as well as a stable outlook for its further increase, which means that Serbia is just one step away from receiving the investment grade, despite pronounced uncertainties in the international environment, the National Bank of Serbia (NBS) announced last week. “The fact that the Fitch agency has affirmed Serbia's stable outlook for obtaining the investment grade is another confirmation of the developed resilience of the local economy to numerous global challenges,” said NBS Governor Jorgovanka Tabakovic. In the report of the Fitch Ratings agency, it is stated that Serbia’s credit rating is supported by a responsibly managed macroeconomic policy.

“This decision of the Fitch agency confirms that in Serbia, despite the unfavorable circumstances in the international environment, the global crisis and uncertainty caused primarily by the war in Ukraine, an adequate economic policy is being pursued that is yielding good results,” said Finance Minister Sinisa Mali.