Serbia Newsflash Week 18

New potato import levy, COVID-19 effects on the meat sector, cereal prices at an eight-year record, EU business support initiative launch, and the prospect of climate change damages crossing the ten-billion-dollar line - The week in Serbian agriculture

Potato field basks in the golden light as the night fog dissolves in the morning sunshine
©Henry Gartley
The harvest yields of Serbian potato plantations doubled last year - But due to the pandemic, demand dropped, and import produce also drove prices down, which is why the government is now introducing an import levy for the period between February and November.

Beef consumption down by 70% due to COVID-19

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, meat consumption in Serbia has declined, stated the Minister of Agriculture, noting that beef consumption was down by as much as 70% due to the COVID-19 restrictive measures and limited working hours as well as to the complete closure of HoReCa industries at certain times. These factors have also led to a drop in meat prices.

The state has intervened in the market three times so far through the Commodity Reserves Directorate and with additional financial support to stabilize the sector, stated  the Minister in the parliament, answering MPs’ questions about the situation in the meat industry. The Minister underscored that as much as 70% of the funds in the incentives budget was earmarked for cattle breeding. According to him, the live-weight lamb price is €2.21 per kilogram, while beef is €2.05-2.10/kg, and the state offers subsidies for that. He also noted that subsidies per head of sheep stood at €59.5, as well as €17 per head of lamb. “Those subsidies are the highest in the region by far, even higher than in the EU” the Minister said. Pork is Serbia’s primary meat product.

Seasonal levies to protect domestic potato production

This week, the Serbian Ministry of Agriculture organized the wholesale selling of potatoes in the village of Rti in the Dragacevo region (Western Serbia), and over 300 tons of potatoes from Lucani and Ivanjica are expected to be sold to Lidl supermarkets. Farmer Milos Kostic told the RINA news agency that the sale was carried out successfully and that ten wagons would be sent off initially. “It is important for us, allowing us to compensate even a little bit for the huge losses we suffered this year. We were afraid we would have to throw away the majority of our potatoes, but luckily, it will not happen,” the farmer said.

As the Minister of Agriculture recalled, farmers’ potato yields doubled last year, but due to the pandemic, the demand dropped, automatically creating a problem. “Also, due to a duty-free regime, potatoes imported from abroad created additional pressure. We will try to avoid that in the upcoming period. The state is introducing a new measure, a special seasonal levy in the period between November and February, which is the period when the demand for potatoes is the highest. The additional duties will be introduced in order to protect the domestic production” the Minister said. The Ministry has assisted farmers in placing their goods in the retail chains already twice this year. The Netherlands is Serbia’s  number 1 trading partner of for seed potatoes.

Maize and soybean prices at their eight-year maximum

The maize and soybean prices on the Novi Sad Commodity Exchange hit an eight-year high last week, and the price of wheat also went up, the exchange said in its weekly report. Forward rate agreements on maize deliveries slated for April/May involved the price of €0.2-0.21/kg, excluding VAT, a rise of 4.13% w-o-w. Moreover, increased demand made the maize price go up as well. Compared to the same period last year, that price is now 58.23% higher. Last week, the weighted soybean price was €0.7, up by 6.87% w-o-w and by 97.67% y-o-y. Last week’s wheat demand was high, so there was a rise in its price, reaching €0.18 – 0.20/kg, VAT excluded, which is a 7.67% rise w-w-w.

As for forward rate agreements, the rapeseed price was the highest, €450 per metric ton. The reason for this price is that the yields are expected to be weak, whereas oil prices are extremely high. The total turnover on the Novi Sad Commodity Exchange last week was 6,899 t (up by 24.21% w-o-w), and the value of the turnover came at €2.16 million (an increase of 7.26% w-o-w).

Roe deer
©Lubos Houska
Thanks to conservation efforts, the roe deer is returning to the Kopaonik National Park in Serbia.

#EUforBusiness

The EU Delegation in Serbia has launched a campaign on the EU support for jobs and economic development - #EUzaBiznis (EU for Business). The campaign is in line with the umbrella slogan #EUzaTebe (EU for You), and the goal of the campaign is to acquaint the public in Serbia with the support that the EU provides to the economic development of Serbia.

"When I heard about the EU PRO competition, I inquired about the necessary conditions, filled out the necessary documentation and applied for funds that I received after seven, eight months," said Mr. Stanic, the owner of Trijumf bakery from Kraljevo. "If I hadn't had the help of the EU, I wouldn't have been able to expand production like this, since every beginner in the business needs everything, especially funds to buy equipment," says the entrepreneur from Kraljevo. Other projects in agriculture and food sector supported by the EU PRO can be found here.

$11 billion in potential damages if Serbia doesn’t decarbonise economy 

The most expensive scenario for Serbia would be if it ignored costs related to climate change while deciding on strategic issues, said Ms. Pickup, the UNDP resident representative in Belgrade. Addressing the debate organised by the Centre for Promotion of Science on World Planet Day, the UNDP resident representative said Serbia’s economy had already suffered damages worth $6 billion since 2000 due to the extreme weather condition.

The UNDP estimate about the damage from climate change to the social-economic situation in Serbia could reach $11 billion by 2030 if the country does not decarbonise the economy. Ms. Pickup said Serbia had shown political commitment to the transition toward low-carbon and circular economy, recalling the Law on Climate Change adoption. She called on people in the country to help to discover illegal landfills through an anonymous application ‘Remove Wild Landfills’ developed by UNDP and the Environmental Protection Agency.

The Innovation for Cleaner Air challenge started by UNDP, UNICEF and the World Health Organisation had chosen the 14 most innovative ideas for better air quality in Serbia, she recalled. The challenge includes the monitoring of air quality, air purification, improved fuel combustion, reducing the impact of air pollution on children, and solutions for detecting air pollutants. The UNDP had called on donors, national and local institutions to help the realisation of the best ideas to secure cleaner air in Serbia in the long term. 

Roaming charges between WB countries to be free as of July 1 

The countries of the Western Balkans, as well as all other countries in the world at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, focused on procurement of emergency supplies, goods and necessary medical equipment, and the governments quickly offered a response to prevent the spread of the virus, said Majlinda Bregu, Secretary-General of the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC).

She recalled that governments had faced more or less public criticism, but the biggest problem would be mitigating consequences the pandemic has left on the economy. “This is currently the biggest problem we face. I think that together we could respond to the crisis because we need to think about the future. The region has been affected in recent years by various crises such as floods, earthquakes, and then came the pandemic,” remarked Ms. Bregu. She expressed satisfaction that the RCC was an institution that led common approaches to various issues, such as the regional initiative for the establishment of so-called green lanes, which play an important role in preserving the economy of the Western Balkans since the coronavirus pandemic has started.

She also announced that roaming between the six countries of the Western Balkans will be completely free as of July 1. Bearing in mind the fact that one of the two citizens of the region believes that the agreement on the abolition of roaming helped them save a lot of money.

The European roe returned to Kopaonik after 160 years 

The European roe (roe deer) returned to Kopaonik mountain after 160 years, since the project of the Forest Directorate of the Ministry of Agriculture of Serbia is settling the deer species in the territory of central Serbia. With the funds of the Government of Serbia, the Kopaonik National Park built the most modern breeding ground for roe deer on the location below Kukavica, after that mountain was defined as one of the most important locations for the success of the project.

The Executive Director for Protection and Development in the Kopaonik National Park, Mr. Simovic said that in 2020 and in 2021 a total of 30 roe deer were released, which are the first registered individuals in the area of this national park since 1856, when they were last recorded by the most famous Serbian naturalist, Josif Pancic.