Serbia Newsflash Week 27

COVID-19, renewable energy, industry trade news, SME support - The last week in Serbian agriculture

A bowl of green beans
©Mark Bonica
E-commerce became much more popular in Serbia during the pandemic, with groceries being one of the most sought after types of products.

Coronavirus update

Wearing a face mask is obligatory in Belgrade's public transport and all closed spaces without exception. All visitors and guests in Belgrade’s malls, coffee shops, restaurants, night clubs, beauty salons, gyms, etc. have to constantly wear a mask. Not following the regulation can be fined for up to €50. The maximum number of participants for gatherings is hundred people for indoors events, and five hundred for outdoors. Starting July 3rd, all nightclubs and floating restaurants in Belgrade will be closed in the period of the next two weeks between 11 pm and 6 am. The measures can become stricter at any point if they are not followed precisely or prove to be insufficient, the government stated. More info is available here.

€210 million in support from the EBRD to SME sector

Serbia’s SME sector is one of the pillars of the national economy, accounting for 66% of the country’s employment. As a consequence of the Covid-19 outbreak many companies have experienced a decrease in turnover and profitability, leading to payment delays and an increased demand for liquidity. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) has scaled up its financing for key banks in Serbia in order to support the SME sector. The EBRD financing is addressing the liquidity needs of large corporations and small businesses alike, helping to save jobs and to keep the economy’s wheels turning. A part of the funds is available in dinars for SMEs selling their goods and services domestically to mitigate currency risks. EBRD loans worth  €210 million are available via Serbian subsidiaries of Erste Bank, Banca Intesa, ProCredit Bank, Eurobank and UniCredit Bank.

A wind turbine can be seen against the backdrop of a cloudy sky lit by the setting sun
©David Reid
According to the Director of the Secretariat of the Energy Community in Serbia, 2020 is an important year for renewable energy in the Western Balkans

Decline in foreign trade and industrial production

The Statistical Office of Serbia published data on foreign trade and industrial production. The overall foreign trade in Serbia in Jan-May 2020 dropped by 8.1% between fiscal years, amounting to €15.34 billion. The value of exports declined by 9.5% compared to the first five months of last year, totalling €6.42 billion. Imports reached €8.92 billion, a decline of 7.1% since last year. The deficit thus amounted to €2.5 billion, down by 0.5% compared to the same period last year. The export-import ratio equalled 72.0%, which isalso  lower compared to last year's figure of 73.8%. EU member states accounted for 60.1% of the total external trade, and the largest individual foreign trade partner  is Germany. Serbia exported goods worth €819.3 million to Germany and imported goods from the country worth €1.14 billion. The second largest partners are CEFTA countries. Serbia exported goods in the total value of €1.03 billion to those countries and imported €317.1 from the region, recording a surplus of €716.8 million.

Decline in industrial production in May was 9.3% YoY. Industrial production dropped in May due to the economic slowdown brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic by 9.3% as compared to the same month last year. As compared to the average in 2019, industrial production in May dropped by 8.8%.

E-commerce doubled during the pandemic

E-commerce in Serbia doubled during the coronavirus pandemic, with food stuffs and groceries, small household appliances, computers and computer equipment, clothing and footwear being the most purchased. Sales of disinfectants and virus protection products have increased eightfold, the digital agency Namics reported.

2020 a decisive year for the Western Balkans in terms of renewable energy sources

The Director of the Secretariat of the Energy Community, Janez Kopac, announced that this year is decisive for the region of the Western Balkans in terms of transitioning to renewable energy sources (RES) and the abandonment of the use of fossil fuels. At the forum "Sustainability of the Energy Community" that took place in Vianna, Kopac the Director stated that he is optimistic when it comes to the unfolding of events that contribute to sustainable development not only in the energy community, but also in the entire economic sector of the region.

Montenegro introduced a national mechanism for decarbonisation this year. Albania recently set the price of electricity obtained from solar power at a tender, and it will cost below €25/megawatt hour, which is very cheap and an example for the entire region. This proves that the energy from renewable sources is very cheap compared to other sources. “We are in 2020, which is a very decisive year," Kopac said, adding that the pandemic would even accelerate the Green Deal.

Photo credit:
Cover: "beans" by Mark Bonica, via Flickr.
"Facing the wind" by David Reid, via Flickr.