Rural tourism is booming in Serbia

Soil degradation, changing consumer habits due to the crisis, duties on live animal import abolished, problems in the dairy industry, participation in a largetrade show in Dubai and reforms needed in the agriculture pension system - Our weekly briefing on agriculture, food and nature news in Serbia

Serbian countryside
Beeld: ©Valentin Salja
The rural tourism business is flourishing in Serbia, however, half of the businesses probably operate in a legally grey area.

Increased number of registered farms involved in rural tourism

In Serbia, the number of registered farms engaged in rural tourism increased by 40% in 2022. Currently, more than 700 businesses of this type are registered in the E-tourist system. “It is likely that  as many are still operating in the “gray zone”,  said Mr. Husein Memic, the Minister of Tourism for Beta news agency. Five years ago the state introduced subsidy scheme via voucher system as support to the local hospitality industry.  “One of the reasons for increased registration in the E-tourist system is the voucher system provided by the Government, since more than 10.000 vouchers were used in rural households last year,” stated the Minister. He pointed out that in the coming period, the Ministry of Tourism plans to actively suppress the “gray zone” because individuals who rent out their private accommodations illegally represent unfair competition to all caterers who operate according to the law.

Mr. Memic indicated that, after the establishment of the Central Information System in the field of hospitality and tourism, the so called “E-tourists”, for the first time in the second half of 2020, a roughly realistic picture of the number and overnight stays of guests was obtained for each destination in Serbia.

New consumer habits

The increase in food prices is rapidly changing consumer habits in Serbia. It is noted that many Serbian families are reducing their expenditures on food but also are buying fewer items and cheaper products.

Almost four out of ten consumers said they are buying less red meat, while a third are buying less fish and chicken. Shoppers are completely cutting back on certain products to save money, with one out of ten consumers saying they've stopped buying “ready-made meals” and 10% of customers stopped buying alcohol. A third of the surveyed customers said they had reduced their spending on cereal and dairy products, and a third had switched to buying a cheaper brand. What all buyers have in common is that they have decided to make more informed purchasing choices, reports

Drastic decline in humus percentage in the soil of Vojvodina

Vojvodina is in great danger of permanent soil impoverishment, which can have unforeseeable negative consequences for agriculture. The negative effects are already visible, because despite the implementation of complete agrotechnical measures yields are decreasing. "The state has to understand the magnitude of this problem and react," commented Mr. Jovica Vasin, an expert from the Field and Vegetable Crops from Novi Sad.

According to Branislav Gulan, agriculture analyst, about 75% of Vojvodina's surface is covered with two types of soil - chernozem and rite chernozem. Only one percentage of total land area in Vojvodina has more than 5% of humus. Additional problem is that the number of livestock is rapidly decreasing in Serbia at a rate of two to three percent per year for the last three decades.

Abolition of import duties for live animals

As of this year, upon the initiative of the Ministry of Agriculture, Serbian Government passed the Decree on abolishing  customs duty on the import of fattening piglets weighing up to 50 kilograms as well as the sessional tax of €0.07 per kilogram for fattening piglets and fattening cattle. According to the Minister of Agriculture, Mrs. Jelena Tanasković, the abolition of import duties should help improve livestock sector in Serbia. "This measure was adopted as a support to Serbian agricultural producers with the idea of restoring country’s livestock sector. According to estimates and analyzes for the previous two years, which were done by the Statistic Office of Serbia, the Chamber of Commerce of Serbia, as well as the Ministry of Agriculture, Serbia currently lacks about a million piglets to fill the capacity of the farms", said Minister Tanasković.

Bird "inventory" of Serbia

From January 9 to January 31, the Society for the Protection and Study of Birds in Serbia  is conducting the International Bird Census of Water Habitats. The Society invites citizens of Serbia to take part in the most massive and oldest activity of monitoring the number of wild birds in the world, which started back in 1966. "Thanks to the vast network of members, volunteers and collaborators, this year we will try to visit as many water habitats throughout the country as possible, to record their condition, as well as the number of birds there," says Marko Šćiban from the Society for the Protection and Study of Birds .

Serbian customers deceived by the biggest dairy producer in the country

The dairy company Imlek had deceived the citizens of Serbia by abusing its most famous brand, “Moja Kravica” and putting Polish milk in cartons. Mr Dejan Bulatovic, an independent MP demands from Minister of Agriculture an immediate reaction regarding this scandal in which consumers across Serbia were directly deceived.

The MP, Mr. Dejan Bulatovic warned the former Minister of Agriculture many times in the previous two years that the livestock fund in Serbia was completely devastated and one of the first problems he outlined for the current Minister of Agriculture was precisely the issue of livestock breeding. "I proposed a series of measures that would help livestock farmers overcome this difficult period. In response, I was completely ignored, and the citizens of Serbia faced a shortage of milk," said Bulatovic, who is also the Deputy Chairman of the Committee for Agriculture, Forestry and Water Management of the Serbian Parliament.

He suggested to the Ministry of Agriculture to implement measures that include raising the subsidy to €100 per hectare, guaranteeing purchase prices to agricultural producers who sign a contract with the government, abolishing excise duty on fuel for farmers and raising subsidies per cattle head.

Serbian food companies to exhibit at Dubai trade show in February 

Alongside over 2.500 exhibitors from around the world, Serbian food industry companies will make an appearance at the GULFOOD 2023 international food fair, to be held in Dubai at the end of February. The appearance at the fair will enable the companies to showcase their products and break into new markets, as well as to boost existing and create new business contacts, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Serbia (PKS) stated. The Serbian companies will be exhibiting at a 174 square meter Serbia booth, to be situated in one of the main venues of the Trade Centre Arena & Sheikh Saeed Halls. The participation of the Serbian companies at the event is organized by the PKS and the Development Agency of Serbia.

Urgent and fundamental reform of agricultural pensions needed

The Minister for the Rural welfare, Milan Krkobabic, stated that an urgent and radical reform in the part of the pension system related to agricultural pensions is needed, because, as he pointed out, the current situation is unsustainable. "It is absurd that someone with half a hectare of land pays the same contribution for the pension system as someone who owns 5.000 hectares," underlined the Minister in an interview for daily “Politika”. "As we are talking about a large number of people who are in their senior years, the reform must be radical, comprehensive and socially responsible," said the Minister.