Serbian scientists find a way to reduce methane from cattle

Subsidy news; a new agreement with Hungary; a potential in biogas; regional fruit forum held in Belgrade - Our weekly briefing on agriculture, food and nature news in Serbia

Beeld: ©Robert Bye

Serbian scientists reduced methane emissions in cows by almost half

As part of the "Scientists against climate change” special, the Klima 101 portal interviewed PhD Daniela Kirovski, Professor at Faculty of Veterinary Medicine in Belgrade, Department of Physiology and Biochemistry. Profesor Kirovski and her team managed to reduce methane emissions and increase milk production in cows by using natural nutritional supplements. Prof. Kirovski has been working and researching the metabolism of dairy cows for more than 20 years. For the last few years she has also managed MitiMetCattle project financed by the state science fund, that has been trying to solve methane pollution from the enteric fermentation of dairy cattle through nutritional modulation of cows’ metabolism.

Throughout March and April this year, her research team conducted a major project trial and got extremely impressive results. "We reduced methane emissions from cows by 46%," explains prof Kirovski. The solution is primarily in feeding of cows with brown seaweeds, resulting in production of propionates instead of methane as a product. Propionates are constituent parts of glucose, and glucose is one of the components of lactose, milk sugar. "We set up our experiment by having a preparation period of 10 days. Then we added nutritional supplements. When it comes to brown seaweed, we noticed a 35% reduction in emissions after 15 days of using these algae in the diet, and after 30 days a 46% reduction compared to the control group of cows that did not receive this as feeding addition", points out Prof Daniela Kirovski. "Our goal is to create a nutrition model (dietary regime) based on project results that we could offer to farmers. The diet would offer to dairy farmers an estimate of the methane emissions of their animals based on several key parameters, such as the type of diet, milk production, some biochemical parameters etc. The model would be based and on the real results we got during our  research in Serbia".

Animal husbandry has been a "hot" topic for different reasons lately.  Representatives of large industries, state officials, political movements  etc have been debating  and some are advocating drastic changes in human nutrition. However, according to Prof Kirovski, the clash between supporters of food industry and animal welfare carers, is non-existent. "I often talk about the cow as an animal that serves people, and perhaps there is an impression of lack of ethics or support to animal welfare. But I am a veterinarian, like most of my research team, and we put health and animal welfare on the first place," states Prof Kirovski for Klima 101 portal.

Subsidies to be paid to farmers who cultivate land

The Minister of Agriculture Ms. Jelena Tanaskovic, stated that as of next year subsidies per hectare would not be given to the land owners but to the farmers who cultivate the land. During the debate on the 2024 Budget Bill in Serbian Parliament, the Minister said that thanks to the introduction of E-agrar, 160.000 farms that have been receiving subsidies without any basis were deleted from the register.

“In 2024, the premium for milk will be €0.16 per liter, and the subsidy for quality heads will be 345 EUR instead of 215 EUR. Subsidies for sows have been increased from €128 to €154, for sheep and goats it is €85 instead of €60, and for beehives, instead of €6.8, it will be €8.5,” Jelena Tanaskovic said. She added that the budget for agriculture next year would be almost €900 million, plus €120 million which will be provided by refunds for excise duties on diesel.

The minister reiterated that funds for agriculture have never been higher and pointed out that the budget for agriculture accounts for 6% of budget revenue, and that the agriculture sector would receive 48% of all subsidies in Serbia. She added that €60 million has been provided for the Water Directorate for capital investments and irrigation, and €51.2 million for the Veterinary Directorate, which will be spent on animal health protection. The Minister underlined that all debts to farmers would be paid by December 31, 2023.

Agreement reached on export of Serbian raspberries to Hungary

Last Friday, October 20, at the official opening of the OMÉK – the National Agriculture & Food Exhibition in Budapest,  an agreement had been reached on the export of Serbian raspberries to Hungary said  Ms Jelena Tanaskovic, Serbian Minister of Agriculture. She said that raspberry producers came along with her to the fair, where Serbia was the guest of honor. “Farmers came to offer Serbian raspberry since Hungary is a big importer, but for some reason, it does not import that fruit from Serbia. We agreed on the export. Beekeepers, organic producers, producers of traditional fruit brandy “rakija” and wine were also present,” said the Minister. Ms Tanaskovic stated that the export of agricultural products to

Hungary is growing rapidly, reiterating that in 2018 it amounted to €150 million, and last year it was €345 million. Hungarian Agriculture Minister István Nagy pointed out that Serbia has great opportunities for the production and export of agricultural products to the European Union, even though it is still not a member of the EU. As a guest of honor of the expo, Serbia was given a central place in the pavilion of the HUNGEXPO area. OMÉK is an expo in the field of agriculture, food industry, and agricultural technology, which is held every other year

First FruitNet Forum South-East Europe held in Belgrade

On October 25, the first specialized forum for the fresh fruit & vegetable industry, FruitNet Forum South-East Europe”, was held at the Serbian Chamber of Commerce (PKS) in Belgrade. More than 40 producers and exporters from Serbia and the Western Balkans region met ten large European buyers and distributor of fresh fruits & vegetables.

The forum gathered representatives of the ICA from Sweden, REWE from Germany, Consorfrut from Poland, Bama Gruppen from Norway, Freshpro from Great Britain, Bingo from Bosnia & Herzegovina, Champion-Fruit Kft from Hungary, Eurogroup from Italy, Greenyard from Belgium.

It was stated at the meeting that the goal of the forum is to connect Serbian and regional producers with foreign buyers on the home ground, so that business opportunities are available to as many participants as possible and at lower costs compared to appearances at large international fairs. “The forum is focused on small & medium-sized enterprises, producers who can hardly reach customers at this level,” said the Director of the PKS Sector for Strategic Analysis, Services & Internationalization, Mihailo Vesovic. At the forum, organized by the PKS with the support of the USAID Big Small Businesses project and the FruitNet Media International media company, Mr Vesovic explained that this type of gathering is important because fruits & vegetables make up 25% of agricultural exports, out of which 50% end up on the EU market.

Serbia would cover 50% of natural gas needs through production of gas using biomass

The Serbian Biogas Association organized an annual conference “Sustainable development of Biogas sector in Serbia – from biogas to biomethane“ last week in Belgrade. Mr. Goran Knezevic, a biogas expert and member of the Board of Directors of the Serbian Biogas Association, said that Serbia has the potential for the production of 500 MW of energy from biogas, which could cover 50% of the country's natural gas needs.

“Biogas power plants, apart from solving environmental problems and organic waste, could be a strategic decision for our country, which would reduce our dependence on imported gas,” he explained to Tanjug news agency at the occasion of the annual biogas conference.

He said that Serbia is not at the beginning when it comes to biogas production, given that there are 39 operating power plants and another 79 in temporary status, but he notes that Serbia has much greater potential than that. When it comes to green methane, Knezevic notes that Serbia still does not have the possibility to feed it into  the national gas network.

He also explained that half of the biogas is used for the production of electricity, and the other for thermal energy, and that in order to utilize the latter, new investments are needed. According to Knezevic, if the biogas was purified to  biomethane, Serbia could use that biomethane that was delivered to the national gas network at all locations that are connected to gas. He explained that foreign investors are interested in this area considering that they are more aware of the potential that biogas power plants have in solving environmental problems.

Montenegrin “Plantaze” covers one-sixth of wine market in Serbia

The largest Montenegrin wine producer “Plantaze” covers one-sixth of the market in Serbia and Bosnia & Herzegovina, the company announced, adding that the largest market in the region, and the second largest for Plantaze, is the Serbian one, where almost 5 mn bottles are sold annually. “Sales on that market, ending in July, increased by 4% in terms of quantity and 12% financially compared to last year. In Bosnia & Herzegovina, this indicator is 11% better than last year. All parameters are better this than previous years, including 2019,” reports daily Pobjeda.

The company adds that, when it comes to the Croatian market, there is a noticeably larger offer of wines from North Macedonia and Serbia this year, while Montenegrin wines can rarely be found - only in “Konzum” retail chain of supermarkets. “Last year, 24.7 mn EUR were generated from all products, which is 7% more than in 2021, and the growth trend has continued in the current year,” Plantaze announced.