4th AgroBelgrade fair to be held in Serbia at the end of January

Serbia's raspberry powerhouse status confirmed, statistics showing low levels of irrigation in farming, rising inflation figures, serious hardships in aquaculture, news from the dairy industry and a grave case of river pollution - Our weekly briefing on agriculture, food and nature news in Serbia.

A smiling young woman is seen at a reception stand of some tractor and agro machinery company at an expo.
Beeld: ©AgroBelgrade Fair
The AgroBelgrade fair in 2022. The annual agriculture expo of the Serbian capital is one of the largest in the region. The 2023 fair will be held between January 26-28.

AgroBelgrade Fair at the end of January

For the fourth year in a row, AgroBelgrade Fair, a specialized fruit, vegetable and wine fair will gather producers, suppliers and traders from Serbia and the wider region, at the same place. The fair will take place in Belgrade between January 26 and 28.

The increase in fruit, vegetable and wine production in Serbia in the recent past led to an increased interest in having a professional gathering in Serbia, which would aim to position Belgrade as a regional hub for trade, knowledge exchange and facilitation of partnerships between domestic and international buyers, retailers and distributors.

One of the main goals of the fair is to bring the European and global market closer to a wide range of Serbian and regional stakeholders, such as producers, business integrators, service and inputs providers, fruit/vegetable/wine processors, international and domestic distributors and retailers.

Numerous panel discussions aim to raise awareness on the importance of opening new markets, available finance instruments for agriculture, use of renewable energy in agriculture, and harmonizing production with EU and global market needs and standards. The Netherlands will organize a workshop for selected local  growers on the latest trends and technologies in the soft fruit sector, zooming in on substrate growing and organic production. The workshop is organized in a frame of PIB project Netherlands-soft-fruit-solutions.

Serbia world’s third largest raspberry producer 

In terms of raspberry production, in 2022, Serbia took third place at the global level, right behind Russia and Mexico. Chile, also a large producer of raspberries and other berry fruits, was ranked fourth, according to the final data for last year. ‘Our biggest competitors for years, Poland, underperformed last year and had smaller quantities at their disposal. Russians differ from other producers, they don't export because they only produce for their own market,’ stated the leading berry fruit expert Aleksandar Leposavic from the Cacak Fruit Research Institute for daily Politika.

When it comes to fruit growing in Serbia, the largest areas are under plums, followed by apples and cherries, and fruit growers also achieve the highest production in these species, the newspaper writes. According to the collected data from 2021, the highest yields per hectare come from apples, followed by plums, pears, apricots, cherries and peaches. As recently announced by Agroclub, these are indicative data, which change from year to year, with the fact that plums and apples are constantly the most dominant fruit species, the daily points out.

Just 1.5% of agriculture land irrigated in Serbia

In Serbia, 54.639 hectares of agricultural land were irrigated last year, which is only 1.58% of the 3.437.423 hectares of total used agricultural land in the country. Nevertheless, it was higher by 4.6% compared to the 52.236 irrigated hectares of agricultural land in Serbia in 2021, the Statistical Office of the Republic of Serbia (RZS) reported.

Arable land and gardens (93.4%) make up the largest part of the total irrigated areas, followed by orchards (5.4%) and other agricultural areas (1.3%).

According to RZS, the research on irrigation includes companies and agricultural cooperatives that deal with production and services in agriculture and manage irrigation systems. Most of the water for irrigation was drawn from watercourses, 89.8%, while the remaining amounts were taken from underground water, lakes, reservoirs and from the water supply network. The most prevalent type of irrigation was sprinklers. Out of the total irrigated area, 91.8% of the surface was sprinkled, 8.1% of the surface was dripped, and only 0.1% of the surface was irrigated, RZS stated.

Y-O-Y inflation numbers show food prices increased by 33.6%

According to the report of the Statistical Office of Serbia (RZS), inflation in December 2022 was 15.1% compared to the same month of the previous year. During the whole of 2022, inflation amounted to 11.9%.

The consumer price indices, which measure inflation, increased by 0.5% on average in December compared to November. RZS published data on the prices of agricultural and fishery products in November, stating that they were higher by 33.6% on average than in November 2021. The highest y-o-y growth of 80% was recorded for livestock products, where the price of milk is higher by 91%, and eggs by 46%. In one year, potato prices increased by 67%. The annual growth of prices for products from the grain & livestock sector was higher by almost a third, and the highest growth, 39%, was recorded in the prices of pigs.

Government aids dairy market in Serbia

According to the Secretary of the Association for Livestock Breeding and Processing of Livestock Products at the Serbian Chamber of Commerce (PKS), Nenad Budimovic, the regular payment of subsidies and the higher purchase price of raw milk contributed to the stabilization of the entire local market.
Budimovic pointed out that thanks to these incentives, the milk market has been running smoothly for a certain period of time, adding that no major fluctuations should be expected when it comes to supply and prices. The secretary also highlighted that the aid sent to livestock farmers helped them to stabilize production. ‘Government aid is reflected in regular subsidy payments, while dairies in Serbia have significantly raised the purchase price of raw milk,’ said Budimovic. He stated that the company Imlek was leading the way, paying more for a liter of milk than the average price in the European Union.

Carp farming on the verge of collapse  

A total of 520 tons of carp worth €1.9 million were imported into Serbia in the first 11 months last year. As daily Politika writes, that is an increase of 300 % compared to the same period in 2021, when a total of 132 tons of this fish was imported. According to the data of the Serbian Chamber of Commerce (PKS), in the last 10 years, there has been a consistent decline in carp production.

In 2021 alone, 30% less of that fish was produced in the country than in 2020. Politika stresses the fact that there used to be up to 15.000 hectares of carp ponds, and now there are barely 5.000. Of the former 11 large ponds in Serbia, only three have survived, and only two are working in full capacity. At the moment, only medium and small ponds are operating without bigger problems, the daily claims. In 2021, production was not renewed on as many as 5.000 hectares of ponds, which resulted in a direct loss of €700.000. Therefore, river fish is imported from Thailand, Croatia, Spain, and Vietnam. PKS states that one of the key measures for the revival of production would be the abolition of water fees on all grounds for fish ponds.

‘All water fees should be abolished, as was done in the Czech Republic, for example. In Croatia, they have been reduced by eight times, and in addition, the government motivates the local producers so that for every kilogram of carp exported anywhere (and they only export it to Serbia), producers receive €1 of aid, Mirjana Miscevic, a senior adviser at PKS stated for Politika.

West Serbia river and lake covered in trash

Local environmentalist warned that the Lim river and Potpecko lake in Western Serbia have been covered in floating garbage. According to local experts more than 10.000 cubic meters of garbage is covering the river and the lake in the Priboj area.

Most of the garbage is plastic and packaging but household appliances and wood have been reported as well. The same problem appeared several months ago and the garbage was removed following an intervention by minister for Environment Protection, Irena Vujovic. This time the garbage is being removed by environmental organizations and activists who said that the lumber is being delivered to the central heating plant in Priboj while the communal waste is being taken to a dump in Uzice. The floating garbage originates from neighboring Montenegro whose authorities have closed down waste dumps along the Lim river.