Serbia: External trade, as well as national deficit, increased in 2022

Macroeconomic figures of 2022, subsidy information, gov't targeting inflation, news of the Open Balkans initiative, the best Serbian wines and finally some good news for the endangered Serbian deer - Our weekly briefing on agriculture, food and nature news in Serbia.

View of the evening Belgrade cityscape
Beeld: ©stevanaksentijevic
The latest news from Belgrade: External trade up by 30%, deficit up by almost 60%

External trade exchange up by 30.8%, deficit up by 58.9% in 2022

Serbia's total external trade in goods from January to November 2022 was €59.27 billion, which is 30.8% more than in the same period in 2021, the Statistical Office (RSZ) announced. In the first 11 months of 2022, goods worth €24.81 billion were exported, which is 26.4% more than in the same period of the previous year. The import of goods was worth €34.46 billion and was 34.1% higher than at the same time last year.

The deficit amounted to €9.64 billion, 58.9% more than in the same period in 2021. The coverage of imports by exports was 71.9%, less than in the same period of the previous year when it was 76.4%. EU member states account for 58.8% of the total trade exchange. The main individual external trade partner in Serbia's exports was Germany, to which goods worth €3.48 billion were exported, while on the import side, China was the number one trade partner, from which products were purchased in the amount of €4.38 billion. The second most important external trade partner of Serbia are the CEFTA countries, to which €3.83 billion worth of products were exported, and €1.53 billion were imported.

The total economic activity in Serbia in 2022, according to estimates, measured by the real GDP movement, was 2.3% higher than in 2021, the RZS stated. The estimated annual inflation rate in 2022 was 15.1%.

Agricultural production dropped 8% in 2022, industrial production rose by 1.5% and the processing industry reported a rise of 1.7%. The retail trade saw growth of 6.4% in real terms and the wholesale trade a nominal growth of 19%.

Government paid close to 40 million in support to sunflower farmers in 2022

The Serbian government adopted amendments to the Regulation on the establishment of the Program of Financial Support to Agricultural Sunflower Producers in 2022, for which €40 million were planned in the last budget revision.

It specified funds for the payment of the price difference between €0.55 per kilogram set by the oil mills and €0.62/kg demanded by the producers.

The representative of the agricultural producers of the central Banat, Mr. Vukasin Bacina confirmed that the payments started on the same day as the new Regulation came into the force. Last summer, sunflower producers organized protests and blocked traffic in different parts of the country, demanding increase of the purchase price. After several weeks of negotiations, the government undertook to subsidize the price of sunflower. 

The Serbian government also extended the amended Regulation on banning export of milk and milk products for another month until January 31, 2023, which was introduced to mitigate the consequences and prevent a critical shortage of milk and milk products, due to increased exports and the need to supply the population.

The best wines and wineries in Serbia in 2022

In the traditional selection of the regional wine portal, , the best wines, wineries and everything that marked the Serbian wine scene in the last 12 months were chosen. In a comprehensive review consisting of as many as 22 categories, Cabernet from Negotinska Krajina, Kremen Kamen 2019 of Matalj Winery, was declared the best red wine in Serbia, the best white wine was Aksiom Beli 2019 of Fruska Gora Deuric Winery. The title of best rosé went to Ergo Rose 2021 Temet, the first Serbian organic rosé wine. The recognition for the best red wine from the local variety went to the parish winery Braca Rajkovic for the Prokupac Prince 2018, and the best white wine from the local variety is Velika Morava 2021 Chateau Prince. Among organic wines, which are becoming more and more popular with the public and producers, the winners are Pinot Noir 2018 of the small winery, Sagmeister in the red wine competition, Traminac Gratianus 2018 Imperator among white wines, and Furmint 2019 Basa in the category of orange wines. Deuric Winery from Mala Remeta on Fruska Gora was declared the best winery, Sagmeister from Kanjiza was the best small winery in Serbia, MV Winery from Stalac near Knjazevac was the best young winery, and Podrum Malca near Nis was recognized for the development of wine tourism. Wine Vision by Open Balkan was chosen as the most successful wine event.

Deer in Serbia no longer on verge of extinction  

Deer in Serbia were once on the verge of extinction, but their number has increased significantly in recent decades. According to the latest data of the Statistical Office, from 1962 until 2017, the number of deer in central Serbia increased more than twentyfold, from 73 individuals to 1.688.

However, given that in many European countries today, deer numbers are in the tens of thousands, the current situation is still unfavorable and worrisome, Dragan Gacic, a Professor at the Faculty of Forestry in Belgrade.

Deer habitats are in the vast forest plains in Podunavlje and Posavina, Deliblatska Pescara, Vrsac mountains and Fruska Gora. The species also resurged south of the Sava and Danube rivers. However, this animal species in Serbia still needs human help so that the number of its individuals remains stable, Gacic said. He recalls that the destruction of deer game here began in the 18th century, mostly due to excessive and illegal hunting, and then also due to logging and deforestation. In the 1870s, in eastern Serbia (not far from Pozarevac, Golubac and Negotin), on the banks of the Danube, there were large butchers selling only deer meat.

The richest Serb of that time, the famous captain Misa Anastasijevic, acquired his initial capital by trading deer meat and antlers. Since deer in central Serbia were almost exterminated, after World War II the first projects of so-called reintroduction, i. e. resettlement, were launched. “These undertakings are a long-term and very expensive process, the success of which depends on numerous factors”.

The control of inflation and the development of new markets

In 2023, the Ministry of Foreign and Internal Trade will pay special attention to the improvement of the private sector, as well as the strengthening of the foreign trade cooperation with other countries, the talks on free trade with China, Egypt and Korea, as well as the formation of the common Western Balkan market, said Minister Tomislav Momirovic in an interview with Tanjug. Asked about the plans of the ministry and challenges in the year ahead, he said that priority now is to maintain the citizens’ standard of living and low level of inflation in the country. As he said, the state will continue to control the prices of bread, sugar, salt and oil in the next period.

Open Balkan initiative increases trade between Serbia and North Macedonia

The Governor of the National Bank of North Macedonia, Mrs. Anita Angelovska Bozoska, emphasized that the Open Balkan initiative is already yielding results, as the trade exchange between Serbia and North Macedonia has increased by 20% this year. “The effort to connect the labor market in circumstances when all three countries (including Albania) are facing a reduction in the working population can only have a positive effect. Increasing integration can make economies more competitive and attractive for direct foreign investments,” stated the Governor for daily “Vecernje Novosti”. She said that national currencies (Serbian dinars and Macedonian denars) were included in the exchange rates of two national banks, which enabled trading of those currencies on domestic markets and facilitated economic cooperation between the two countries.