Serbia Newsflash Week 14, 2022

The government focusing on food security, farmers against the export ban, a new GI measure to help protect local brands, a new regulation for the labeling of domestic meat, and the success story of a research institute in Novi Sad and its soy varieties - The week in Serbian agriculture

A Serbian "ironed sausage".
Beeld: ©Matija Babic
A Serbian "ironed sausage".

Food security of the region is Serbia’s priority

At the meeting of the agriculture ministers of the Standing Working Group for Rural Development of the Western Balkans held in Berlin this week, Mrs. Vedrana Ilic, the  Assistant Minister for International Cooperation and EU Integration said that the countries of the Open Balkans Initiative, as well as other neighboring nations, can count on Serbia as a reliable partner in times of great challenges in the food sector.

The Assistant Minister said that Serbia, as a regional leader, sees cooperation and commitment to preserving the stability of the food supply in the region as one of the most important priorities.

Speaking about EU integration, Ilic said that significant progress had been made on the recommendations of the previous progress report, especially in Chapter 12: Food Safety, Veterinary and Phytosanitary Policy, as well as preparatory work on the Strategy for alignment with the EU acquis and further improvement of capacity of the Directorate for National Reference Laboratories.

The Assistant Minister also added that when it comes to Chapter 11 - Agriculture and Rural Development, a big step forward has been made with the new IPARD III programe for the period 2021-2027, which was adopted by the European Commission last month.

Grain and Flour producers urging the Government to lift the export ban

In the days when the war in Ukraine began, Serbia banned the export of flour, wheat, corn, oil and other food stuffs. However, flour producers warn that such a decision harmed them and that silos and warehouses are already stocking surpluses.

The producers are now asking for a meeting with state officials because they are afraid that they would have to stop production due to the accumulation of goods. For the state, it is a move that protects the domestic market from the effects of the crisis, but for flour producers, it is a decision that is irrational and unjustified from an economic perspective.

Three weeks have passed since the ban on the export of flour and wheat came into force. Not only is there enough flour, but the mills have been creating a surplus in recent weeks, industry stakeholders report. 

Several farmers’ associations made a joint statement expressing dissatisfaction with the decision of the Serbian Government to ban the export of grains, which has stopped the flow of goods, so they can’t sell the surplus quantities to fund the spring sowing. 

“Farmers are angry, because the ban has fully blocked the internal flow of goods and brought down the prices of corn and wheat, so it is impossible to secure the money for spring sowing. We are requesting an urgent removal of the ban” stated the associations Pancevacki ratari, Agrarni forum Pancevo and Gradjanska neposlusnost Dolovo. They add that the farmers in Vojvodina are affected the most, as they are  the most “export-oriented”.

Export of wheat and corn to Albania started, Italy to follow

The Serbian Grains Association confirmed that agreed export of 30 thousand tons of wheat and 17 thousand tons of corn to Albania has begun.

The Director of the Association, Mrs. Suncica Savovic, has said that the exporters waited for five days to get a formal permit from the Serbian Government. Mrs. Savovic has added that, with the approval of the Government, small quantities of cereals will also be exported to Italy.

The director has specified that the export to only one Italian buyer is allowed in the amount of 67 thousand tons of corn and 17 thousand tons of wheat, adding that the approved quantities for export are small, bearing in mind that up to 30% of wheat and corn from Serbia are exported to Italy.

“Last year, Italy bought about half a million tons of corn and about 340 thousand tons of wheat from Serbia,” said Savovic. She added that the Serbian Grains Association, according to the contracts concluded before the ban of export, has obligations to export 459 thousand tons of wheat to various markets by June 30, and 670 thousand tons of corn by September 30.

The Serbian Chamber of Commerce supports the voices that call for the lift of the ban on the export of cereals and flour, or for at least introducing quotas.

They also add that last year's good yield of wheat and the high price at the stock exchanges have been beneficial for Serbia, which should be used to reap the benefits of the situation on the global market.

Wheat in a field
Beeld: ©Tomasz Filipek
Cereal farmers and flour producers are calling for the immediate lifting of Serbia's export ban that was introduced following the outbreak of the war in Ukraine.

“Ironed sausage” as a model for GI label

The European Commission has adopted a proposal to revise the system of geographical indications (GI) for wine, alcoholic beverages and agricultural products. The new measures should encourage their introduction across the European Union in order to benefit the rural economy and achieve a higher level of protection, especially on the Internet.

The aim is to maintain high food quality and standards, and to ensure that cultural, gastronomic and local heritage is preserved and certified as authentic within the EU and around the world.

Since Serbia is not a member of the EU, its producers have to go through a two-stage registration - first at the national level and then once again if they want to provide a designation of origin for the EU market. The last in a series of products with a domestic stamp is the “Ironed sausage” from Pirot, south Serbia, which was recently registered.

Locally produced meat to be marked is stores in Serbia

As of last week, meat and products containing at least 50% meat content of domestic origin will bear the “Made in Serbia” label in all stores in the country, stated Mr. Branislav Raketic, the head of the Department for Food Labeling at the Ministry of Agriculture.

“One of the most important information for consumers, in addition to price and expiration date, is information on origin. We have come up with the simplest way to mark it, without changing the packaging so that the buyers would still know that it is a product in accordance with regulations,” explained Mr. Raketic.

Mr. Raketic pointed out that the Ministry had been in intensive communication with producers and traders in the previous period. All doubts have been answered, so this decision can be applied on the first day of April.

Mr. Raketic claims that this novelty will not result in a price increase of meat and processed products in any way, because labeling does not cause any additional costs in the production process, emphasizing that product labeling shall help not only consumers but also domestic producers of animal feed, meat and related products, as well as the slaughterhouse industry.

Institute of Field and Vegetable Crops Novi Sad receives “institute of national importance” status

The Government of Serbia has awarded The Institute of Field and Vegetable Crops from Novi Sad, the status of “institute of national importance”. The Institute is accredited as a research and development institution.

According to their website, in 2018, the Institute obtained special status for its successful operations and top results implemented in agricultural practices during its 80 years of existence, for which reason it has also become a prominent name in science on a global level.

The basic and applied research, which is the main activity of the Institute, is directed at creating varieties and hybrids of crops, vegetables and a large number of animal feed, industrial, medicinal and spice plants.

The Institute produces exclusively non-GMO soya varieties and has signed the contract with distributes from Canada to export its varieties there for the first time ever.

The soya varieties to be exported to Canada are NS Apolo, NS Ventis, NS Vulkan and NS Dijana. Research on the new soya varieties have been pursued since the establishment of the Institute and its tradition goes back seventy years. Over 140 NS soya varieties have been registered in Serbia and more than 190 worldwide.