Serbia Newsflash Week 20

Rural tourism, green corridors, economic integration and the sweet Red Gold - The last week in Serbian agriculture

Chickens are seen grazing in a garden separated by a wooden fence in a rural mountain village in Serbia.
Beeld: ©Mila Mirkovic
With the current crisis, it is doubtful Serbians will choose to spend their vacation on the seashores of the neighboring countries - Which means that serene rural communities in like this one in rural Serbia might just experience a tourism boom this summer.

The new normal

The Serbian Government adopted a stipulation for the travel of Serbian citizens after annulling the state of emergency. Serbian citizens will need a negative PCR test on COVID-19, not older than 72 hours, in order to enter Serbia and in the absence of such a test, they will have to be quarantined for 14 days. Citizens can also leave Serbia and they will need to follow the requirements for entry into other countries depending on the country to which they travel. If they travel to the countries which insist on a health passport, they will be able to test for coronavirus in Serbia for around 50 EUR at the Laboratory of the Clinical Center of Serbia.

Regulations of entry of foreigners into Serbia have been relaxed, which is important because of the economy. Persons entering the country will also need to provide a PCR test negative for COVID-19, not older than 72 hours. Their movement will be limited to some extent. Additional information of required documents for foreign businessmen traveling to Serbia can be found bellow.

It is underlined that the personal responsibility of citizens continued to be the most important since strict restrictive measures have been lifted. Everything boiled down to personal vigilance; citizens are urged to take precautions, use masks, gloves, wash their hands, respect interpersonal distances and respect the ban on large gatherings.

The European Commission is ready to closely link the region of the Western Balkans in carrying out the Joint European Roadmap towards the gradual opening of borders and restarting travel after the limitations implemented due to the Corona pandemic. According to the EC's recommendations on the freedom of movement and abolishing of controls at the EU's internal borders, it would also be necessary to monitor the situation in countries that neighbor the Union.

Provisional guidelines related to the entry of foreigners into the Republic of Serbia

Documentation for applying for a permit for entry of foreign businessmen into the Republic of Serbia must contain the following:

  1. The request of the company, which must be forwarded to the Serbian Chamber of Commerce by e-mail to:

The request should be submitted in a written letter on the memorandum of the company containing the following information:

i. Name and surname of the person(s) for whom entry in Serbia is requested;

ii. Passport number(s) (‘document number’) and the country that issued the passport(s);

iii. Reason for arrival;

iv. Time and border crossing of entry in Serbia (flight number / Vehicle registration plate);

v. Address of residence in Serbia;

vi. Address of workplace (The permit allows a stay on the submitted address of residence and limited movement to the workplace if the person has a negative PCR test for SARS-CoV-2)

  1. Negative result of PCR test for SARS-CoV-2 by reference from a national laboratory not older than 72 hours (3 days) in relation to the time of border crossing.

If a person is unable to be tested in the country of origin, self-isolation of 14 days is required at the address of residence that is reported to the Government Commission responsible for issuing permits for entry into the territory of the Republic of Serbia.

Therefore, limited movement is only possible with the possession of a negative PCR test for SARS-CoV-2. Please note that it is not possible to shorten the self-isolation of 14 days by getting tested in the Republic of Serbia.

  1. The Chamber of Commerce of Serbia will submit the entire documentation, with its confirmation, to the Government Commission for issuing permits for entry into the territory of the Republic of Serbia under the circumstances of applied protective measures in combating the disease COVID-19.

A reply can be expected within 24 to 48 hours of submitting the request.

OECD overview of the COVID-19 crisis in the Western Balkan countries

The OECD has been working with governments, business leaders and civil society in South East Europe since 2000 to ensure peace, stability and prosperity in the region, and to overcome economic challenges, including weathering the global economic and financial crisis and preparing the region for European Union accession. In face of the new challenges posed by the COVID-19 outbreak, OECD has prepared a regional note on the economic impact, policy responses, and short-term sustainable solutions and published an overview on the impact of the Covid-19 crisis in the Western Balkans countries. These documents can be accessed here.

Green corridors are essential in avoiding and annual loss of €300 million

The Green Corridors concept, designed by member states of the Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA), the European Union and the Western Balkans, should contribute to more efficient border crossings to lessen waiting time at the border. Last week the Serbian government passed a decision to support the Green Corridors, and the implementation of the strategy will start right away. It's a special system allowing for border operations to be carried out as swiftly as possible. It was tested for international transport operations during the state of emergency. Waiting at border crossings are  costly, in terms of time and money. Twenty-seven million hours are lost at border crossings every year. The price the Western Balkans pay for it is EUR 300 million. It is expected the decision will be implemented quickly in North Macedonia, Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina. The idea was discussed with the EU member states as well.

The key to healing economies is a common market

The key to healing the economies in the Western Balkans is supporting and strengthening regional economic integrations, faster establishment of common regional space and deeper involvement of the region in the common legal and economic system of the European Union, says Serbian Chamber of Commerce President. The significance of chambers of commerce was especially prominent during the Covid-19 pandemic. Functioning of “Green corridors” throughout the Western Balkans and securing logistics in these difficult times proved to be essential. As business associations,  Chambers of Commerce helped companies deal with the problems and business operations more easily as well as helped governments manage the unprecedented crisis better. Read the whole interview here.

Rural tourism in a landlocked country as a substitute for the seaside

The coronavirus pandemic brought us into a new reality. It is not very likely that millions of Serbian tourists will spend their holidays at the costs of Croatia, Montenegro or Greece. This summer, the majority of Serbs will most likely be relaxing at a destination within the country. Rural tourism is being promoted for several reasons. It represents a contribution to the budget of agricultural holdings and it is also a significant factor in preserving and revitalizing rural communities in Serbia.

Over 1.000 family farms are engaged in rural tourism accounting for nearly 10% of the overall profit gained through domestic tourism. Moreover, people’s interest in staying in rural households has been growing. The offer of rural households has improved in the last couple of years. One will not only enjoy the well-known hospitality and traditional specialties but also could explore rural regions by signing up to organized tours. On top of the promotion of in-land tourism, the government also issued tourist vouches. Starting this week, pensioners, students, and employees with a salary lower than EUR 600 will be able to apply for another 400,000 tourist vouchers for a holiday in Serbia. Normally, it might be pretentious to say that rural tourism is Serbia’s seaside but it seems this year it will be actually true.

A large crate is filled up with boxes of large, ripe, scarlet-colored strawberries.
Beeld: ©Mila Mirkovic
While in Hungary, "red gold" means salty-hot paprika paste, in Serbia, it refers to the ripe, large, crimson-colored and sweet Serbian strawberries.

Triple helix for the Serbian Red Gold

Raspberry production in Serbia has a great potential - no wonder it is called the Serbian “red gold”. Nevertheless, year in, year out, strawberry producers face the same problems throughout the production chain: In the fields, in storage, in marketing and in sales. For that reason the Serbian government decided to establish a “Working group for strawberries”. This body will consist of representatives from the Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Trade. Also, representatives of the Research Institutes and Faculties will take part in this working group. The third pillar of this assembly will involve associations of producers and cold storages. The aim of this group is to analyze the current situation in this sub sector with special attention to the critical points in production chain: from propagation material to sales.

Open questions that arise every year are repurchase conditions and repurchase prices. It is unclear if this working group will produce strategic documents for the improvement of production and market of this strategic fruit for Serbia. This is not the first attempt to form such a body. There have been similar in 2018 and 2019 too. But, unlike the previous exertions of the Ministry of Agriculture to resolve challenges in strawberry production, this is the first time such a body assembles all relevant stakeholders: decision makers; scientific experts and producers.

Fruit producers long for rainfall

In order for fruits to gain in size and volume, producers are applying agro technical measures i apple and stone fruit orchards. Mild winter was prone to flowering of orchards and fruits are developing well. What would make farmers even more happy is some spring rain. They would not oppose showers either. In last few years it is noticeable that farmers are clearing plum orchards and planting pears instead. The climate for this stone fruit is good and the price on the market is better than the price of plum.

Biggest milk processor in Serbia won’t make use of Covid-19 governmental support

Dairy processor “IMLEK” will not utilize a possibility to take governmental support meant for the business sector to ease the impact of the corona pandemic. “Imlek” stated that such support is meant for the businesses that suffered the most during the state of emergency. That is not the case with their company. “Imlek” helped out small scale dairy producers in previous two mouths by taking their milk when local dairies shut their production down. They kept the repurchasing price towards their farmers on the same level as before the pandemic. Their operations are quite sound and there is no need for government support.

Coimbra Sustainability Summit 18 – 29 May

An online summit will take place from May 18th to May 29th with the central theme of how new technologcial inventions can support work and economic growth as well as their contribution to Sustainable Agriculture,  Health, Agri-food, Manufacturing and Sustainable Cities. Those will be the main topics of this summit organized by the company InoSense from Novi Sad. The goal is to inspire participants in guiding their innovation activities, foster economic growth, while contributing to the satisfaction of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The registration form of the conference can be found here.