Serbia Newsflash Week 10

News of IPARD 3, Dutch session at Agro Belgrade, floriculture updates, truck driver vaccination, automated hail defense stations - The week in Serbian agriculture

An event with speakers.
Beeld: ©M. Mirkovic
The Agro Belgrade 2021 was cancelled, but the conference part of the Belgrade Fair was still organized. The Dutch session focused on the potentials of the pome fruit and planting material sectors in Serbia.

International Agriculture Fair in Novi Sad to be organized in the third week of September

Due to the current developments of the COVID-19 pandemic, the management of the Fair in Novi Sad decided to postpone the oldest agriculture exhibition in the region to the fall and prepare the show to be held between September 18-24, 2021. The decision was taken in order to try to organize an “in situ” exhibition. Even though numerous shows and conferences are switching to digital platforms, nothing can be compared to personal meetings and discussions.

Conference part of Agro Belgrade Fair on YouTube

The conference part of the Belgrade Fair was organized with the partners the Ministry of Agriculture, USAID and the Netherlands Embassy in Serbia, even though the Agro Belgrade 2021 was cancelled due to the global pandemic.

There were four thematic sessions discussing various topics from opportunities for the financing of the agro sector in Serbia to new technologies in fruit and vegetable production. The Dutch session focused on the potentials of the pome fruit and planting material sectors in Serbia. A market research piece was presented elaborating on the opportunities this sector offers to the businesses. One novel element was the talk by the Directorate for Plant Protection of Serbia. They explained the efforts and accomplishments of all stakeholders (government; research institutions and the business sector) in delisting Serbia from the list of third countries for the export of apple planting material to the EU market. Serbia is one of the three countries that was approved for exporting planting material to the EU. The perspective of the business sector and the reasoning of the Dutch companies to do business in Serbia were also explained in detail. The abundancy of fertile soil necessary for crop rotation and skillful labor were underlined as the most important ones.

Watch the full session here.

IPARD 3 program brings novelties

The Minister of Agriculture and the Head of the EU Delegation to Serbia stressed that Serbia had achieved excellent results in the area of agriculture in 2020. The site of the Ministry of Agriculture announced that 75% of Serbia’s agriculture trade is with the EU, and Serbia’s export to the EU reached close to two billion euros in 2020.

During the meeting of the two officials, Serbia’s EU integration path as well as reforms needed to make progress in the negotiations in the sector of agriculture were discussed. It was mentioned that Serbia meets numerous conditions from the chapters that are the main measure of success for the negotiations. The Head of the EU Delegation in Serbia encouraged Serbia to continue with the reforms and adopt the EU’s legal acquis. He agreed that Serbia had had positive results in the region when it came to access to new EU funds, encouraging Serbia to completely use the funds within IPARD 2. It was acknowledged that Serbia’s preparations for the IPARD 3 program are going well, which will lead to access to new EU funds for farmers and rural areas. One novelty in the funds from the IPARD 3 program  is “Measure 6 : investments in the rural infrastructure”. Some funds will be used to build roads, sewage and other accompanying rural infrastructure necessary to strengthen agriculture and make the life and work of farmers easier.

Surpluses in local potato production

Potato producers in Serbia are facing a very difficult period. Their storages are filled with potatoes they could not sell due to the closure of the hospitality industry last year and the ban of mass gatherings. Supermarket chains in Serbia cannot absorb the huge local potato surplus. The Ministry of Agriculture of Serbia is trying to mediate in this situation and find potential buyers for local potatoes. “In September last year, the export price of potatoes to the Russian market was €0.21/kg. It was a lower price than in 2019, and many farmers probably thought it would go up later. The opposite happened because hotels and restaurants were, and still are, closed. There are no celebrations either, which are the main occasions requiring this kind of agricultural product,” the Minister explained at a press conference at the opening of Agro Belgrade Fair. As he recalled, according to official data from 2019, 96% of potatoes in the Serbian market were from local producers, while only 4% were imported.

bouqet of roses
Beeld: ©Rebekka D
Alongside South France, Serbia is one of the best places in Europe to grow roses. However, the country still has a notable deficit in flower trade compared to the rest of the world.

Serbian flower sector export at €4.2 million 

Last year, Serbia generated €4.2 million through flower exports, with the export of roses accounting for €2.5 million. Along with the south of France, Serbia has the most favorable conditions for rose production in Europe, and this sector generates over €200 billion globally. However, Serbia still has a notable deficit in flower trade compared to the rest of the world. In 2020, the country’s external trade in flowers came at €19.4 million, with exports worth €4.2 million (2.7 tons of flowers) and imports slightly over €15 million (6.7 tons of flowers). “The area used for rose growing in Serbia is still rather small. According to data from 2012, it was around 200 hectares then. Todays’ estimated figure is around 600 ha,” stated an official from Serbian Chamber of Commerce. Moreover, 5% of the exports went to the EU, with the Netherlands as the biggest importer of Serbian flowers. Outside of the EU, the biggest flower export destinations were Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan. As for flower imports, Serbia’s biggest partner is, again, the Netherlands, followed by Italy and Slovenia. In order to extend this production, Serbian flower and decorative plant growers need additional incentives, larger plantations and leading-edge technology to better position themselves in the global market and boost the exports.

Annual food waste estimate in Serbia is 83 kg per capita

According to the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) Food Waste Index Report 2021, a Serbian citizen throws away 83 kg of food a year, which means 726.196 tons in total. In Southern Europe, where the UNEP classifies Serbia, the highest amount of food waste per capita is recorded in Greece, 142 kg in 2019, with an aggregate figure of over 1.4 million tons in a year. Next is Malta with 129 kg per capita or 56.812 tons of food waste a year. As for former Yugoslav states, Croatia’s food waste estimate is 84 kg per capita, while every person in Bosnia & Herzegovina, Montenegro, and North Macedonia is estimated to throw away 83 kg a year. The lowest amount of food waste in the region by far is Slovenia – 34 kg per capita or 71.107 tons a year. According to data from 2018, out of the 5.3 billion tons of food produced in the world, 931 million tons (17%) were thrown away. This happens most frequently in households (61%). Food producers account for 26% of the waste and 13% of it is generated in stores.

New automated stations for better hail defense

The radar center of the Hydrometeorological Institute of Serbia in Bukulja completed the first phase of installing new, automated anti-hail stations. The first phase aimed to complete 44 anti-hail stations out of 104 that are planned. The second phase with 60 stations remains to be completed by the end of the year, after which the Bukulja radar center will be fully automated. Once fully operational, the radar center will provide protection in a diameter of 90 km and over 2,370 hectares. The total investment will be €3.4 million for the radar center, stated the Prime Minister of Serbia. By the end of the year, a fully automated anti-hail protection system will be in place to defend crops in the area of Topola and its surroundings. Anti-hail stations are fully automated, without the need for shooters since they are controlled from the radar center. Topola with its surroundings is the fruit production area of Serbia that suffered from hail production damages in the previous years

Vaccination of truck drivers: Solution for delays at borders

The Serbian Chamber of Commerce (PKS) said that the vaccination of drivers was the best permanent solution to the problem of international transport and trade. The President of PKS commented for the portal that such a proposition had already been presented to the competent authorities in Germany. He pointed out that PKS was also working on a more permanent solution to the problem of transporting goods during the pandemic within the Eurochambers organisation, which represents 20 million companies. “We advocate for a simplification of the procedures and the harmonization of the rules within the single market for all European companies, including those from the Western Balkans. We have been supported by the Council of the European Union, through recommendations to member states, especially from Portugal, which currently holds the presidency,” said the President of the PKS. He added that one of the requirements of the Eurochambers Single Market Board, was for all the member states to enable forwarders to enter the EU without the condition of a PCR test, with proof of an antigen test at the border.