Serbian farmers not satisfied after meeting with ministers

Low purchase price for grain; importance of bio-energy increases; banks supporting nature conservation; aflatoxin contamination in milk; bakeries to recieve flour stock from Commodity Reserve; abolition of land conversion fee is unconstitutional - Our weekly briefing on agriculture, food and nature news in Serbia.

Tractor driver driving a tractor in the field. Also, the sun is setting in the background.

Farmers dissatisfied after the meeting with Prime Minister and Ministers of Finance and Agriculture

Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic spoke with representatives of agricultural associations in Serbia about proposals for improving their situation, which is to be analyzed, and the results will be presented at the next meeting with farmers, the Serbian Government announced. As stated, the meeting was attended by Deputy PM and Finance Minister Sinisa Mali, Agriculture Minister Jelena Tanaskovic and representatives of seven farmers’ associations (Initiative for the  Survival of Serbian Farmers; For the Salvation and Survival of Stockbreeders of Western Serbia; Banat Union of Farmers' Associations; Our Milk; Milk Producers of Sumadija and Pomoravlje; farmers of Subotica and Stig).

Prime Minister Brnabic said that “it is very important to take care of local producers who have the support and understanding of their country.” “We agreed that the meeting would be held in the same format next week after analyses and consultations, and that a decision would be made on the proposals presented by the farmers at the meeting,” the government announcement reads.

The representatives of the Association of Agricultural Producers of Subotica, who presented their demands with the representatives of six other farmers’ associations, said that they are dissatisfied and that another meeting has been arranged for next week, at which farmers will receive answers to their proposals. "We are absolutely unsatisfied because we don't trust in what officials are saying. That's my impression. The Government doesn’t take us seriously. They don't understand that we came to talk about the problems that plague Serbian farmers," Miroslav Matkovic, president of the Association of Agricultural Producers of Subotica stated for daily “Danas”.

At the meeting eight demands of farmers were presented, among which a guaranteed purchase price of milk of €0.66 per liter without tax, a premium for milk of €0.17 per liter, as well as regulating the import of milk and milk products. "We showed them statistics that the import of milk decreased in January and February, but import is still taking place. We are asking for a total import ban, as well as for levies to be totally abolished or drastically increased. Government raised levies from €0.10 to €0.25, let them raise it to €2.5 per kilo. We talked about that, because the fact that they raised the price of one kilogram of cheese or butter from €0.10 to €0.25 means nothing," Matkovic explained.

Farmers also requested subsidies in the amount of 300 euros per hectare. They requested that the reference price of field crops should be harmonized with the prices at the stock exchanges in Budapest and Paris. Farmers also requested 100 liters of diesel for arable land and 300 liters per hectare for vegetable and fruit crops (without excise duty tax) .

After demands were presented, it was agreed that a meeting in the same format will be held on May 15, when farmers will receive reply to their proposals. "They didn't tell us anything specific. We were promised that at the next meeting the Prime Minister, Minister of Agriculture and Minister of Finance  will present written answers: this can, this cannot be done. We went to defend our demands, but basically we were told that we are asking for the impossible", explained Matkovic. The decision on the possible protest, which was announced for May 16, will be made jointly by all seven farmers' associations, after meeting next week.

Drastically lower purchase price of grain causes problems for farmers

Grain traders and purchasers have offered farmers the future purchasing wheat price of €171 plus VAT per ton. In December last year, the price of wheat was €0.34 per kilogram, while now it is €0.19, which causes considerable problems, especially for farmers with smaller holdings. The global grain market affected this sector in Serbia so problems are evident in trading with all agricultural crops. Along with the drastically lower purchase price of wheat and corn, the prices of cereals change every day, so Kikinda's agricultural companies are making big plans for next period. "As soon as wheat from Ukraine appears, no one will look at the quality. It’ll be available in huge quantities and the price will drop. In Serbia, the price of wheat in December was €0.34/kg, and today it’s €0.19/kg, the same as corn" - says Damir Radulovic, Director of the agricultural company.

Last year, farmers from Kikinda traded only as much as they had to and that was primarily related to compensation, mostly exchange for inputs, seeds and other raw materials. "If these are the purchase prices, we can close our production. Predictions are that sunflower will be €0.25/kg, wheat €0.15/kg and fertilizer €100/kg. I didn't have grain last year, sunflowers were well paid, but now situation with corn is very bad", points out Milan Dragoljevic, a farmer from Novi Kozarac.

While waiting for prices to be announced, farmers say that it is an unwritten rule that if nitrogen fertilizer is cheap in the spring, the products will be much cheaper. "The problem with the subcontractors is that last autumn, mixed fertilizer cost €100 EUR and if wheat is €0.17, it means that 600 kilograms of wheat are needed for 100 kilograms of mixed fertilizer, and that is the biggest problem. Also, the problem is that UREA fertilizers cost 85 EUR. Prices of all inputs went up. The third problem is that yellow rust has been spotted on wheat crops, adds Damir Radulovic. On the top of everything mentioned, few days ago some buyers offered farmers a forward price of €151 plus VAT for barley and €171 plus VAT for wheat, reports TV Vojvodina.

Biomass to become most important renewable energy source

Biomass has the potential of becoming the most important renewable source of energy in Serbia, home to 35 biogas facilities with a total electric capacity of 34.2 megawatts, stated the senior advisor for renewable energy sources at the Serbian Chamber of Commerce’s Energy and Mining Association Ms Verica Raznatovic, for BETA news agency.

The biogas plants have been granted the status of privileged producers, selling electricity at privileged prices (a feed-in-tariff system applies). The provisional status of a privileged producer has been granted to another 80 power stations, whose total electric capacity has reached 76.4 MW, explained Verica Raznatovic. A new cycle of investments in the sector could be expected in the coming period, because amendments to the Law on the Use of Renewable Energy Sources should pave the way for the first auctions to be held.

“A decision to introduce feed-in-tariffs in 2010, and particularly the most encouraging 30% tariff increase permitted in 2016, created a favorable business setting for investors. The biogas sector recorded positive growth until 2020, nearly reaching a target stipulated by the National Action Plan for Serbia to expand the biomass capacity to 30MW,” the advisor stated. Speaking about the potential of biomass energy, Raznatovic underlined that Serbia was among the states that could rely on considerable biomass potential, in terms of biological diversity and distribution.

Banks support preservation of flora and fauna in protected areas in Serbia

The Association of Serbian Banks (UBS) and the Ministry of Environmental Protection signed a Memorandum of Cooperation to improve protected areas and preserve biodiversity in Serbia, UBS announced yesterday.

It was stated that banks, association members, in accordance with this document, would provide money for projects proposed by the Ministry to preserve flora and fauna, natural habitats of species and improve the tourist capacities of protected areas. The association of banks, together with its members, has already provided €68,3 thousand to finance the installation of an educational board in the Jevremovac botanical garden , the construction of a mini solar power plant in the Zasavica  reserve, the arrangement of a walking path in Perućac lake and the installation of urban furniture at Kaludjerske Bare in Tara National Park. The funds are also intended for the construction of new and repair of existing vantage points in the Sargan - Mokra Gora Nature Park, the purchase of a canopy with benches in the Gornje Podunavlje nature reserve, the construction of a vantage point within the Djavolja Varos (Devil's Town) Natural Landmark, the construction of a prefabricated wooden viewpoint in the center of the Sopotnica waterfalls protected area and the construction and setting up a vantage point in the area of exceptional natural features of Vlasina Lake.

According to the announcement, the Ministry of Environmental Protection will increase the area under protection to 98.900 hectares this year, i.e. from the current 8% to 9.11% of the territory, and €3 million has been provided for their co-financing – 34% more than last year.

Imlek stops purchasing milk from certain farms due to aflatoxin

Imlek dairy processor announced that it temporarily excluded several farms from the purchase scheme of raw milk due to elevated levels of aflatoxin, based on internal and external laboratory controls. As stated, Imlek gave instructions to the farmers in order to eliminate the problem and after they restore the quality of milk with the prescribed level of aflatoxin, the company will include them in the purchasing scheme again.

Imlek reiterates that the suspension of the purchase of raw milk will be in effect regardless of the consequences and pressures the company may face, all with the aim of ensuring the highest quality, without exception for any farm whose milk does not comply with the regulations and the law. “Strict compliance with the Food Safety Law of Serbia is one of the postulates of Imlek, which continuously works to improve the quality management system,” the announcement reads.

Bakeries to receive 32.000 tons of flour

The Serbian government gave its consent for the sales of 32 thousand tons of T-500 wheat flour to Commodity Reserves Directorate. The flour will be sold to bread producers in order to preserve the stability of the bakery industry, to help bread producers and protect citizens' standards. Flour will be delivered to bread producers based on the lists made by the Ministry of Trade at a price of €0.23 per kg, excluding VAT, or €0.25 per kg VAT included, the government’s announcement reads.

Abolition of land conversion fee is unconstitutional

The Serbian government adopted the Bill on Amendments to the Law on Planning and Construction, which speeds up the procedures for issuing building permits, removes obstacles, such as conversion for a fee, and enables the process of issuing permits to be more transparent with the aim of greater protection of citizens and those who build, the Government announced after the session.

The Anti-Corruption Council of the Serbian government assessed as unconstitutional the draft law on amendments and addenda to the Law on Planning & Construction that abolishes the fee for converting the right to use construction land obtained in privatization and receivership. According to the Council, the government knew or must have known during the adoption of the Bill last week that the Constitutional Court of Serbia had previously declared unconstitutional and illegal the acquisition of ownership of land without a conversion fee.

“Every serious investor, when acquiring the capital of a company in the process of privatization or receivership, knew that the right of use is not the right of ownership and that he does not acquire ownership of the land,” the Council stated. The Belgrade Fair, whose privatization has been announced, was cited as an example. If the fair gets a new owner, he/she would basically become the owner of 11 hectares of construction land for free. That land's value would exceed the Belgrade Fair's capital price many times over. The same goes for agriculture land that can be converted into the construction land.