Serbia Newsflash Week 16

Agro robotics advancements, new trade agreements signed, logistics streamlining, increased agro subsidy budgets, Orange Pavilion at the digital Days of Agriculture - The week in Serbian agriculture

Bumblebee on a flower.
©Janneke Alkema
A professor at the Faculty of Agriculture in Novi Sad proposed that Serbia import bumblebees from the Netherlands because of the frosty temperature. Bumblebees work hard even at 6°C - A temperature at which most other bees would rather just curl up in their hives and watch Netflix from under a blanket.

Prune export on the rise

In 2020, Serbian prune exports totaled at €8 million, up €1.3 million y-o-y. The Serbian Chamber of Commerce (PKS) expects the upward trend to continue. The export price ranged between €1.5 and €2 per kilogram, and Russia, Slovenia, Croatia, and France remained the main prune export destinations. Last year, the exports totaled 4,158 metric tons. Serbia produces around 6 thousand tons of prunes every year, with the Kolubara, Toplica, and Sumadija districts being the most dominant.

The overall plum production in 2020 amounted to 582,547 tons, with the Sumadija and Western Serbia region accounting for 388,894 tons or nearly 67% of the production. The PKS says that plum orchards in 2020 had a total area of 73,010 hectares, and the average output was nearly 8 tons per ha, a rise of almost 3% from 2019. The five-year average in terms of plum production is about 474,740 t. In 2020, plum exports stood at 31,996 tons, with fresh plums making up 86% of the export (27,544 t).

Serbia should import bumblebees to boost pollination

A fruit expert and professor at the Faculty of Agriculture in Novi Sad stated that Serbia’s potential fruit yield in the spring of 2021 was the highest since 2013. According to Professor Keserovic, despite freezing temperatures, the yield should be good, but there are problems with pollination, so bumblebees should be imported.

The professor stated for the news agency Beta that the situation was the most unfavorable with apricots. On average 55-60% of apricot blossoms got damaged, even up to 80% in the plains of Vojvodina. “Damage suffered by Red Delicious apples is around 90%, peaches around 30%, and cherries up to 10%,” the professor highlighted. Another problem is the  low temperatures and rain observed this month, which is the reason why bees have not left their hives, so they cannot pollinate fruit trees. That is why it is recommended to have bumblebee hives in orchards.

“Bumblebees are active even at 6°C. Their hives can be imported from the Netherlands, and the price is around €100,” Keserovic explained. Because of the high potential yield, it would be enough to pollinate around 7-8% in terms of apples and 15-20% in terms of nuts, he added. One bumblebee hive is enough to cover 1 ha.

New Dutch investments in the raspberry orchards in Serbia

After two years of exploring possibilities of doing business in Serbia, C&C Fruit BV invested in the building of a new 1.5 ha raspberry orchard in Western Serbia. Together with a local partner, they will produce new table varieties of raspberries intended for export to the Dutch market. Besides new varieties, new production techniques will be implemented as well. Covered production should improve the yields and extend the production season.

This week marked the start of the construction works on a demonstration plot within activities of the PIB project “The Dutch solutions for the Serbian Soft Fruit Sector”. The demonstration plot will serve to showcase Dutch growing techniques and technologies for different berry fruit varieties, ranging from raspberries-blueberries-strawberries to niche production as red and black current.

Picture of people buying fruits and vegetables at a supermarket.
©Pixabay
Last week, a new Serbia-UK trade agreement was signed, creating a new legal foundation for the continued export of Serbian fruits to the UK's groceries after Brexit.

Flexible robots for the intelligent automation of precision agriculture operations

Together with 14 different European partners, the BioSens Institute from Novi Sad is implementing the FlexGroBots project. Wageningen R&D is one of the project partners. FlexiGroBots is an innovative action aiming to build a platform for flexible heterogeneous multi-robot systems for intelligent automation of precision agriculture operations. A 36-months long journey will include the use of drones and robots but also the integration of data from already available IT platforms. The aim is to develop an innovative platform enabling the efficient use of novel robotic applications in the agriculture domain. The FlexiGroBots Platform will be validated on three pilots: wine grapes, rapeseeds, and blueberries. The BioSens Institute is dedicated to the increasing of the use of IT in agriculture.

Increased budget for subsidies in agriculture

After a budget rebalance in the National Assembly, the budget for subsidies in agriculture was increased by 10%. The Minister for Agriculture said that state subsidies are mostly used by cattle breeders, accounting for almost 70% of the budget. "Thanks to subsidies, the livestock is increasing," the minister said, citing as a positive example the increase in the number of sheep in 2020 by 108,000 compared to 2019. According to the minister, the number of decisions for rural development measures, issued by the Directorate for Agrarian Payments, is increasing by 20-30% from year to year, and there are about 170.000 different pronouncements issued.

Trade agreements signed  

After Brexit, the agreement Serbia had with the EU did not regulate bilateral trade between Serbia and the UK anymore. Such a situation affected Serbian berry exporters in particular. Last week a new Serbia-UK agreement was signed, providing a new legal foundation for regulating bilateral trade post-Brexit.

Last week, the Armenian Parliament ratified a free trade agreement between the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) and Serbia. Armenia thus became the last country to ratify the agreement, to take effect 60 days after the last ratification. The decision to ratify the FTA was made as three EAEU member states – Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan – have already signed bilateral FTAs with Serbia. The agreement with the EAEU gives Serbia access to a market of 183 million consumers. It was signed on October 25, 2019 in Moscow by Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic and the PMs of Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Armenia and Kyrgyzstan, which chair the EAEU. 

The first year of the Green Corridors /Green Lanes implementation

Essential goods have been traveling smoothly through the Green Corridors/Green Lanes in the Western Balkans since the last year. This was the initiative of CEFTA

and the Transport Community and Regional Cooperation Council. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, food, animal feed and medical supplies travelled across the region more easily, reassuring businesses that the trade flows will remain uninterrupted.

Over the past year, priority passages and simplified procedures have been used by 600 292 trucks. CEFTA enabled the electronic exchange of pre-arrival information between the administrations within CEFTA through the System of Electronic Exchange of Data (SEED), thanks to the support of the European Commission. SEED ensures that information about the arrival of priority consignments are sent in advance to all agencies involved in the clearance of goods, providing more time for documentary check and thus relieving the burden the agencies often cope with and decreasing the waiting time for the traders. Green Lanes supported the Western Balkans in preserving the trade and economic activities, having a positive impact on disrupted trade flows during the pandemic.

Digital “Days of Agriculture” in Novi Sad

Due to the developments of the Coronavirus pandemic and related travel restrictions, the International Agriculture Exhibition in Novi Sad is postponed to the third week in September. In order to mark the traditional agro week in May, the Fair decided to organize a virtual “Days of Agriculture” event from 18-21 May. The virtual days will be organized on the same platform as the digital expo last December.

Through the platform, the exhibitors will be able to present their company, products, and services. Besides the equipment and services presented by individual companies, different panels will be organized at the mentioned online event. The main focus will be on presenting different financial subsidy schemes for the agriculture sector: The national budget of the Ministry of Agriculture; support from the Provincial Secretariat for Agriculture; the EU IPARD funds; subsidies provided by Hungarian Prosperitati Foundation; support to the rural development provided by the Ministry for Rural Welfare etc.

The Netherlands Embassy in Belgrade will be present with the  digital Orange Pavilion.