Serbia Newsflash Week 15

Weather damages, the soaring price of soybean, trade expo participation, subsidy announcements, export successes and green protest in Belgrade - The week in Serbian agriculture

Beeld: ©Євген Литвиненко
Last week on the Novi Sad Commodity Exchange soybean reached a price of €0.64/kg, an all-time high. While the amount of traded goods rose by 14%, the value of the total turnover rose by 46% in a year.

Cold weather affects fruit orchards

Winter is back in the middle of April. Hills and slopes of Western Serbia were covered with 10-50 cm of snow last week. Morning temperatures reached as low as -10°C , said Mr. Radovic, President of the Raspberry and Blackberry Association of Serbia. Devastating effects of the low temperatures are visible on leaves and shoots in raspberry orchards. “If  a farmer has already performed the spring field works in his raspberry orchards, the damage is only bigger,” stated Mr. Radovic. He urged the state Agriculture Advisory Service to visit raspberry farmers and advise on how to diminish the damage and recover the plants as much as possible. Mr. Radovic underscored that wintery weather affected plum and apple orchards in western Serbia as well. It seems that spring  frost will have negative effect on fruit production in Serbia this year.

State support for cooperatives announced

State support for the improvement of business performance as well as further progress of the level of technological development of cooperatives has been presented this week. A public call for the dispersion of €4.2 million will be announced soon. Cooperatives operating in less favorable areas, border and mountainous areas will receive special consideration. An expert board will make sure that financial means will be equally distributed throughout the whole territory of Serbia. For the newly formed cooperatives the maximum grant provided will be €63.8 thousand and for cooperatives with a financial track record, but the ceiling will be double this amount.

Farmers’ e-market losing on its importance

While the sale of goods and services online is showing a rise of up to several hundred percent due to the pandemic, the sales of fruits and vegetables from the domestic e-market are now taking place at traditional sales locations: green markets. Exactly a year ago, when Serbia was in a lock-down, the farmer’s e-market was launched. Hundreds of people who were selling  fruits, vegetables, eggs, milk, and meat were offering their products to customers. In that period, green markets were closed, so selling online was the only way forward for some farmers. Today, however, the e-market is almost deserted, although there are still over 1,330 farms offering their products, daily Danas reports. “Yes, we are still available at the e-market, but not much has been happening for a long time. That worked while the lockdown was in effect. We have returned to green markets now,” Mirjana Stosic Dimic, a vegetable farmer, told the newspaper. It is difficult to harmonize spring field works with managing online sales. Many farmers are keeping online sale opportunity as additional source of sales to the main one being green markets in urban areas.

Soybean price hits all-time high

Last week on the Novi Sad Commodity Exchange was marked by an all-time high price for soybean, as well as for future contracts for sunflower. The amount of traded goods rose by 14% and the value of the total turnover rose by 46% w-o-w. The soybean price amounted to €0.64/kg, excluding VAT and a quality clause. This price is an all-time record high, the exchange said in its weekly report. This commodity was the most in-demand with a turnover of 1,720 tons due to the international market and prices, as well as internal factors on the domestic market. The weighted average price stood at €0.60/kg, excluding VAT, which is a rise of 5.75%. Future contracts for sunflower from the 2021 harvest involved a single price of €410 per metric ton. The maize price remained stable, without notable fluctuations, and the weighted average price was €0.19/kg, excluding VAT. The price of wheat recorded a downward trend for a second consecutive week, ranging between €0.181 and €0.182, not including VAT, which is a drop of 2.82% w-o-w.

Largest landowners in Serbia

The company Matijevic  is the largest landowner in Serbia with 28 thousand hectares of land, reports the portal Agrosmart. The owner of the meat company Matijevic and Matijevic Group (which includes over 70 companies) is Petar Matijevic, a businessman from Novi Sad.

According to Agrosmart’s findings, he uses 33 thousand ha of agricultural land, 28,000 m2 of which he owns. The second biggest landowner is Miroslav Aleksa, the founder and owner of Pancevo-based Almex. According to the portal, he uses some 20 thousand ha of land, half of which he leases, while the other half pertains to him. The next company in terms of the number of ha it cultivates is Al Dahra, which bought Belgrade PKB Corporation’s assets in 2018, including nearly 17,000 ha of arable land in the city suburbs. Miodrag Kostic and his MK group are in the fourth place since he has sold several properties. Kostic has gone from cca 25 thousand ha (around 17,000 ha of which were owned by him) to around 15 thousand ha. He is followed by the owner of Delta, Miroslav Miskovic, who cultivates approx. 13 thousand ha, and he owns about 10 thousand ha, Agrosmart reports.

Plum tree flowers covered in ice
Beeld: ©Myriams-Fotos
As the cold weather returned to Serbia, the hilly slopes in the west of the country were covered in 10-15 cm of snow and morning temperatures could be as low as -10°C.

Serbian food presented at Moscow fair 

The Serbian food industry featured at this year’s Prodexpo fair in Moscow between April 12-16. Eleven Serbian companies promoted their product ranges and export potentials. The presence of the Serbian companies at the event had been organised by the Serbian Chamber of Commerce and the Development Agency of Serbia. Prodexpo is the largest food show in Russia and the Community of Independent States. The exhibitors at the Serbia national booth were: Dairy Sabac, Dairy Ub, Dairy Imlek Padinska Skela, meat processor Carnex Vrbas, meat Industry Topola, Masli Leskovac, Zlatiborac, Itn Group Belgrade, Master Fruits Belgrade, Mambikom Agrar Belgrade and Mirax Agrar Belgrade. “A range of frozen fruit and vegetables, milk and dairy products, dried meat and delicatessen products, ready-made meals and pates, as well as dried fruits, will be presented at the Moscow fair. Serbian products are valued and recognised as being of good quality. Traditionally, there are buyers for them and there is great demand,” said Dejan Delic, head of the PKS office in Moscow. Due to the unique preferential trade agreement with the Russian Federation and duty-free exports to a market of over 144 million consumers, Serbian products have a competitive advantage over other imports to Russia, he said. 

Serbian food products hit shelves of Romanian retail chain 

Serbian confectionery, spices, wines, dried meat and canned products have hit the shelves of Romanian retail chain Remarkt. This is a result of a nearly year-long discussions on establishing cooperation between Serbian food producers and the Romanian retail chain, whose supermarkets are mostly located in eastern Romania. Serbian Ambassador to Romania Mr. Tomasevic explained that individual attempts of establishing cooperation aimed at marketing Serbian food products in Romania had produced only short-term results in the past, while sustainable representation of Serbian products had been lacking. “After several months of work on the project, which implied connecting the producers of renowned Serbian brands with the Romanian retail chain in order to market the goods, as well as ensuring the involvement of distributors in breaking into a market that is certainly demanding, we now have a whole range of quality, well-known Serbian brands as a result,” Tomasevic concluded. 

Ecological Uprising  

A civil protest titled Ecological Uprising took place in Belgrade last weekend. Numerous ecological civic organizations were organizers of the rally. They demanded the introduction of a moratorium on the construction of small hydroelectric power plants, the suspension of deforestation in Serbia and more intensive afforestation. They also called for the Constitution and environmental laws to be respected, including the right to a healthy environment. Organizers called on all relevant authorities to “stop ignoring” environmental impact studies, such as the construction of mini-hydropower plants on the environment, and demanded for improved communication in order for citizens to be better informed about environmental issues.

The Serbian Environmental Protection Minister said that environmental problems in Serbia did not arise overnight and therefore there is no instant solution, but that the Ministry and other competent departments in the Government are dedicated to finding a solution - responsibly and transparently, adding that first results are expected this year. The Minister looked positively upon an increased degree of public awareness on the necessity of environmental protection, which was not the case in previous years. “This year will be marked by the largest investments in this area yet, which will significantly change the ecological image of Serbia.” Stated the Minister. All the issues, from air quality, illegal and unsanitary landfills, nature protection, preservation of biodiversity, but also the lack of infrastructure, primarily the sewerage network and wastewater treatment plants, have existed for decades and they will be resolved much faster in time to come, the Ministry added.