Serbia: Drones being used more and more in farming

The beer industry in Serbia; the first honey vending machine; emissions reduced by food waste processing project; farmers boycott parliamentary hearing until conditions are met by the government - Our weekly briefing on agriculture, food and nature news in Serbia.

An agriculture drone flying over a field.
Beeld: ©Liu Xiaozhong

Increasing use of drones in agriculture

The importance of drones in industry and agriculture is growing daily Serbia, just as it does worldwide. Their use brings numerous benefits and significantly, saves lives, stated drone pilot instructor Milan Loncar, who has mapped the streets of Sydney for Google Maps using drones.

"Today, this is also a highly sought-after profession, making it easy to find employment in the EU, with salaries comparable to those in the IT sector," Loncar told Tanjug new agency. He emphasized that the number of people interested in training is increasing in line with growing needs, and upon passing an exam at the Directorate of Civil Aviation, one obtains a drone pilot license.

The use of drones in agriculture brings significant savings. "By using them for spraying crops, we reduce human labor and their exposure to high temperatures during summer. We can spray large agricultural areas in a very short time. Drone spraying can be done with less chemical usage than the amounts needed for large tractor sprayers. Most importantly, fields and crops are not trampled during spraying," he said.

Spraying is usually done after rain when it is most effective. A tractor with a several-ton sprayer must drive through the field, causing damage to the crops. "A drone does not cause damage or trample crops as it flies one and a half meters above the surface. The savings are substantial, possibly up to ten times. Additionally, a drone can spray one hectare in less than seven minutes, while a tractor takes up to 45 minutes for the same area," Loncar noted.

Five hundred types of beer in Serbia

The beer industry in Serbia has a three-century-long tradition, with around 100 companies employing over 2,500 workers. Annually, approximately 523 million liters of beer are produced in the country, which is almost half of the production capacity, reports Bloomberg Adria. Beer enthusiasts have a wide selection, with up to 500 brands available.

The top three producers in the country are Heineken Serbia Zajecar, Carlsberg Serbia and Apatinska Brewery, all foreign-owned. These three producers hold over 90% of the Serbian beer market. In addition to them, there are several smaller breweries, and recently, small craft breweries have expanded. However, craft breweries hold only a 2% domestic market share. The two leading craft breweries in Serbia are Dogma brewery and Kabinet brewery. Overall, business in Serbia is profitable for the largest global breweries, influenced by the lower effective tax rate on income.

Beer companies have various marketing strategies to increase their market share incentivize consumption. They are also working towards beer being more acceptable with women as well, according to Bloomberg Adria. Research by the consumer research company NielsenIQ shows that Serbian citizens most frequently buy beer in small shops and least often in hypermarkets. In stores, beer drinkers most commonly purchase beer in 0.5-liter cans.

The second place is for 0.3-liter beer bottles, while the third is for 2-liter beer bottles. Regarding packaging, the most sold beer is in cans, accounting for 48.4% of sales, while beer sales in glass bottles are lower, at 40.8%.

The first urban honey vending machine

The first honey vending machine, or "medomat," was launched on the terrace of the Tourist Information Center in Sremska Mitrovica at the end of June. This machine will offer honey from local producers collected near the Special Nature Reserve (SRP) Zasavica. The results of the project aimed at organizing environmentally friendly honey production near Zasavica were also presented.

The project is led by the Regional Development Agency of Srem, with partners including SRP Zasavica and the "Jovan Živanović" Beekeepers Association from Sremska Mitrovica, and is funded by the European Union. The honey vending machine “medomat” allows the beekeepers' association in the Sremska Mitrovica area to market their products and make them more accessible to citizens. In addition to strengthening the culture of honey consumption among the residents of Mitrovica, the distribution of local beekeepers' honey will more effectively utilize natural resources through sustainable development. As stated at the event, the project's social aspect is inseparable from its economic benefits. Part of the Valjevac pasture in SRP Zasavica was cleared of wild vegetation, which was then made into briquettes for heating and distributed to socially disadvantaged families. Beehives have been placed in this area.

Food waste processing project reduces harmful gas emissions

A food waste processing project aimed at producing green energy, conducted by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in partnership with the Ministry of Environmental Protection, has resulted in a reduction of harmful gas emissions by 16 tons over three months.

Ms. Sandra Dokic, State Secretary at the Ministry of Environmental Protection, informed media of the project results, highlighting that food waste is a significant global issue, accounting for 45.6% of total municipal waste. "This is waste generated during food preparation and post-consumption leftovers, with around 90% ending up in landfills," Dokic said at the United Nations offices in Belgrade.. "This is a substantial problem as it leads to severe pollution, yet it represents a significant resource. Through biogas plants, we have managed to supply our system with additional electricity from this waste, demonstrating its enormous potential," the State Secretary noted. Ms. Tijana Koprivica, Director of Sustainable Business at Delta Holding, stated that hotels Crowne Plaza, Radisson Hotel and the Sava Center congress center participated in the project. They handed over food waste from preparation and post-consumption to the company Esotron, which processed the waste into biogas, a renewable energy source. Fabrizio Andreuci, UNDP's Acting Resident Representative, emphasized that initiatives like this are crucial for improving environmental impact and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Unfulfilled promises to farmers

Seven associations of Serbian farmers, which organized mass protests and blocked roads last year, announced that they would not respond to the invitation to participate in a Public Hearing on agricultural issues organized by the Parliamentary Committee for Agriculture. They stated that they would engage in discussions with the authorities only when the promises made by former Prime Minister Ana Brnabic and former Minister of Agriculture Jelena Tanaskovic regarding regulating the commodity exchange, subsidies, and other demands are fulfilled. "What more do we need to clarify? The agreements from all meetings and talks with ministers from the previous government, especially with former Minister of Agriculture Mrs. Tanaskovic, are still just promises with the explanation that there are no financial resources to pay the promised subsidies,” the farmers’ associations commented in response to the invitation by the representatives of the highest authorities in the country.

They emphasized the necessity of implementing what was agreed upon with the Government of Serbia during meetings in 2023. The letter was addressed to the President of the Parliament, Ana Brnabic, the Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee for Agriculture, Marijan Rističevic, the heads of parliamentary groups, and members of the Serbian Assembly, as well as Prime Minister Milos Vucevic and Minister of Agriculture Aleksandar Martinovic. The letter was signed by representatives of seven farmers associations (the Association of Agricultural Producers of Subotica, the Initiative for the Survival of Serbian Farmers, the Union of Farmers’ Associations of Banat, the Aradac Farmers’ Association, the Novi Seljanski Farmers, the Banat Black Soil Association from Nova Crnja, and the Dolovac farmers).