Smallholders and Family Farms in Serbia
Study by the FAO Regional Office, Budapest, Hungary and the Faculty of Agriculture, Blegrade, Serbia.
An informative study was published by the FAO Regional Office, Budapest, about the structure of Serbian farm holdings with a set of recommendations on how to boost access and capacity to innovate; how to to implement new mechanisms of farming in order to modernize and to transfer resources to younger generations. The study shows the importance of small farms and their contribution to the food security of Serbia and its rural community and is a joint effort of the FAO Regional Office in Budapest and the Faculty of Agriculture in Belgrade.
Favorable natural conditions, rich arable lands and a continuity in family farming led to a agriculture playing a considerable role in the Serbian economy in comparison to neighboring EU countries. The positive trade balance of Serbian agriculture relies upon bilateral FTAs with the EU; CEFTA; RF and Turkey. The share of agriculture in Serbia’s GDP is 7.5%, while in Central and Eastern Europe it is a mean 3.5% and in Western Europe it is less than 2%. A similar situation is observed in the food industry.
Small farm holdings and family farmers are the backbone of Serbian agriculture. Nevertheless, they face several challenges and constraints. The study provides insight into their position and the leading trends: The duality of agricultural holdings due to their size; regional characteristics (northern low lands / central mountain part); the distribution of farm labor; characteristics of farm management etc. It also provides policy recommendations for further development of family farms, while at the same time ensuring inclusive growth, improved rural livelihoods, and the reduction of rural poverty.
Although the majority of farmers participate actively in agro-food markets, for the most part, they sell raw, unprocessed products through informal channels, such as: Direct selling, spot and green markets. According to Prof. Natalija Bogdanov, one of the authors of the study, a major vulnerability of the agro-food supply chain is its incompatibility with food safety and hygiene standards, lack of traceability and market infrastructure, high transaction costs, and labor shortages.
In her view, policy incentives should foster market participation, rather than productivity and market orientation. Other objectives should include modernization and technological development, investments in market and wholesale facilities, establishing partnerships, and coordination are just a few elements that could help here, especially in view of the possibility of Serbia joining the European Union and its free trade area in the future.