Serbia Newsflash Week 17, 2022

The new tulip variety out of Belgrade, harvest yield expectations, updates on the export quotas and international grain trade, food waste management reform in the making and news about the export of agro commodities - The week in Serbian agriculture

The ceremony where they "baptized" the new tulip
Beeld: ©Mila Mirkovic
The new tulip variety was names after Jelisaveta Nacic, the first woman architect of Serbia.

New tulip variety “baptized” in Belgrade

“With the baptism of this tulip, the Kingdom of the Netherlands celebrates the project “Green Cities Serbia” and wishes to express its gratitude for the excellent cooperation between two countries” reads the official certificate of the new tulip variety donated by JUB Holland to the City of Belgrade.

On April 28, the Dutch Ambassador Joost Reintjes, Belgrade Chief Urbanist Marko Stojcic and Green Cities Serbia Project Manager Hans Buster signed the certificate and named the new tulip variety after the first Serbian woman architect and the first Chief Urbanist of Belgrade, Jelisaveta Nacic.

The Chief Urbanist of Belgrade thanked the Dutch Embassy on the excellent cooperation in numerous activities concerning greening of urban areas and assistance provided through the public-private partnership project Green Cities Serbia. An extensive assistance was provided by the Dutch companies  and the Project manager Mr. Hans Buster in improvement of the major greening project in Belgrade called “The linear park”. The Green Cities Serbia project aims to enhance cooperation between the Dutch and Serbian governments, research institutions and private sector in order to improve the greening of urban areas in Serbia. 

3 million tons of wheat and 7 million tons of corn expected

A good harvest of wheat with a yield of about three million tons can be expected in two months if the meteorological conditions are favorable, said the Director of the Serbian Grains Association, Suncica Savovic.

“Last autumn, slightly larger areas were sown than the previous season, thus we expect a yield of about three million tons if the weather conditions are good for crop development,” the director stated for the Tanjug news agency. Mrs. Savovic expressed some reservations about the possibility of achieving record yields because it is not known how much mineral fertilizers farmers used for crops.

Mrs. Savovic also said that the producers planned to sow larger areas with sunflower this spring, on the account of areas under corn. “There are two reasons for that, the first being the indications that Russia and Ukraine will at least partially be absent from the global market as the largest producers of oilseeds. The second reason is that oilseeds require less investment, especially in fertilizers,” the director explained.

According to the preliminary estimates of the Association, sunflowers will be sown over 30 thousand hectares more than last year, while the area used for maize production will be about 70 thousand ha less than in the previous year. Mrs. Savovic added that this does not mean that there will be less corn because last year's drought yield was lower. “This year we expect a yield of about seven million tons, and last year there were six,” said Savovic, also stating that soybeans will be sown over 240 thousand hectares, like last year.

Serbian Grains discussed quota export system for cereals with the PM

Prime Minister Ana Brnabic talked with the representatives of the Serbian Grains Association about the improvement of the production and export of cereals and oilseeds as well as about the problems related to the limited export of wheat, corn, and refined oil, stated the Cabinet of the Prime Minister.

The meeting was also attended by the Minister of Agriculture, Mr Branislav Nedimovic. The Prime Minister pointed out that the priority is to keep the supply of the local population with all the necessary foodstuffs secure in the coming period, and that in accordance with that, limited exports of all raw materials will be allowed. “Representatives of the Association supported the decision of the Government to approve limited exports of these agricultural products last week They have pointed out that the biggest challenges they are facing in this period are logistical, and that the priority is to make procedures as simple as possible,” reads the statement. (See more about this here.) The participants in the meeting agreed that holding meetings is of utmost importance, in order to monitor market developments and to adjust export quotas as needed.

Bread being made with flour.
Beeld: ©Duncan Kidd
Cheaper flour coming out of Serbia is expected to keep the price of bread down in Montenegro this summer.

Decision to allow grain export “good but could have come sooner”

Novi Sad Commodity Exchange Director Milos Janjic says a decision by the Serbian government to allow restricted exports of grains is good but that it could have been made sooner. "It could have come a bit sooner, but I am sure that, due to speculations about whether there are enough commodities and what the actual quantities are, time was needed to make a decision. What is certain is that Serbia will have sufficient supply of these commodities ," Janjic stated for Tanjug.

Serbia needs to export its surplus wheat to make money and to free up storage space for the new harvest, explained the Director. Most of Serbia's grain exports go to Italy and other countries via the Romanian port Constanta, while significant quantities are sold to countries in the region, which are Serbian traditional customers, Janjic said. The director also said that the recent ban on wheat exports had halted the trading on the Exchange and shut down the Serbian market. 

Cheaper flour from Serbia annuls bread price rise in Montenegro

Large bakers, traders, and importers of flour in Montenegro received prices for deliveries in May from Serbian suppliers that are 10% to 15% lower than the ones from Bulgaria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and other markets from which Montenegro had to import this food when Serbia banned exports, the Montenegrin daily Vijesti writes.

This means that currently, and probably during the summer season, a new increase in the price of bread could be avoided, which was demanded by some bakeries due to rising import prices from other markets and increasing transport costs because of rising fuel prices, the newspaper writes.

According to Vijesti, suppliers from Serbia offered customers in Montenegro type 500 flour at prices ranging from €420 to €440 per ton, depending on the mill. The prices at which flour was procured from Bulgaria and Bosnia and Herzegovina in the past few days ranged from €450 to €480 per ton. When all costs of transport, taxes and margins of importers are added, the price of a kilogram of flour from Bulgaria for Montenegrin traders and bakeries would be €0.62, while now at new prices, a kilogram of flour from Serbia with all these costs would be around €0.53, Vijesti writes.

Egypt interested in cereals, cooking oil and apples from Serbia

The Minister of Agriculture, Branislav Nedimovic, met with the Ambassador of Egypt, Bassel Salah, at his request, and discussed Egypt's interest in importing Serbian wheat, corn, sunflower oil, and apples, the Ministry stated.

It was pointed out that Serbia has enough cereals and cooking oil for export, and reiterated that two years ago, it provided permits for the export of cereals to Egypt. “Further implementation of the proposals presented at the meeting on the export of cereals and oil from Serbia will be agreed upon by agricultural producers and oil mills themselves, while Egypt is expected to officially approve the export of Serbian apples to the country in the coming days,” the Ministry stated.

VAT on food donations should be annulled 

About 250 thousand tons of edible food is thrown away in Serbia every year, i.e. 30-40 kg per capita, which is why the National Alliance for Local Economic Development (NALED) has proposed to start introducing an obligation for all retail facilities and restaurants to donate food approaching its expiration date.

What is missing at the moment is the introduction of tax relief for all those who have surplus food, according to NALED. They should be allowed to donate surplus food without paying VAT, the Alliance claims. In addition, an obligation should be introduced for all large kitchens that produce more than 50 meals a day to separate biowaste and hand it over to an authorized operator for further processing.

Along with edible food, the amount of waste generated during the processing, sale, and use, eventually reaches 900 thousand tons per year, which is slightly less than half of the total municipal waste in Serbia, according to NALED.

Although there is a legal obligation and all restaurants must hand over food waste to the operator, only 13% of caterers do so, due to the high cost of treatment, the Alliance warns. Unlike waste cooking oil, for the separation of which they receive money from the operator, in the case of food, they have to pay for each kilogram, because it is not worthwhile for operators in the current conditions to take the waste without compensation. That is one of the main reasons why 99% of leftovers from kitchens and plates still end up in landfills, NALED points out. (See more on food waste reduction efforts in Serbia here.)