Serbia Newsflash Week 2, 2022

Record food export numbers, the highest-ever price of raspberries, EBRD irrigation loan, a new National Park in the works and Belgrade ranking no. 1 on the list of vegetarian capitals - Recent news from Serbian agriculture.

Close-up of some raspberries
©Bozhin Karaivanov
At €11.3 per kilogram, Serbian raspberries exported to Japan have reached an unprecedented high price in the end of 2021.

Serbian food exports hit a new record in 2021

Serbian food exports reached a new record in 2021. Minister of Agriculture Mr. Branislav Nedimovic stated for the national broadcaster that Serbia's food exports in 2021 exceeded $5 billlion, reaching a historical high for the country.

"I expect that next year's results will be even better as food will become even more important in the post-COVID period," the Minister explained, adding that his ministry was trying to get as many young people as possible involved in the agriculture industry and was also providing good subsidies for agriculture startups.

Mr. Nedimovic said that evidently, there was money in agriculture and that there would be even more of it in the future, with food becoming increasingly important and more and more expensive. "This particularly applies to wheat, maize, soy meal and all other grains," the Minister noted. Mr. Nedimovic said his ministry was completely prepared for the Open Balkan and for food trade as part of the initiative. "Once the barriers within the phytosanitary system are down, the sky will be the limit when it comes to food. Our goal is to boost trade in food between the three countries (Serbia, Albania and North Macedonia) from $420 million to €1 billion over the next year or two," the Minister said. 

Record price of €11.3 for Serbian raspberries

The price of Serbian raspberries at the end of 2021 reached an unprecedented record high, thus this frozen Roland-type fruit was exported to Japan in November at a price of €11.3 per kilogram, according to daily Politika.

This price is at least twice as much as the farmers received last summer and were satisfied with the earnings. Grits, i.e. crushed raspberries, of Willamette and Meeker varieties, already reached the price of €6-€6.8/kg. Prices continue to rise due to the huge deficit of the fruit on the global market and the demand in the processing industry.

As Nova Ekonomija reported in December, in the first ten months of 2021, the raspberries exported from Serbia were worth €290 million in total, unlike in 2020, when the value of exports amounted to €215 million in the same period.

The yield of raspberries for 2021, estimated at between 80 thousand and 90 thousand metric tons, was purchased at a record price, which, depending on the area of cultivation, ranged between €3.4-€3.8/kg. Some of the largest importers of Serbian raspberries are Germany, France, Great Britain, Belgium, and the United States.

EBRD loan for irrigation infrastructure in northern Serbia 

Serbian farmers irrigated just 1.5% of all arable land in 2021, reported the Statistical Office of Serbia (RZS) on its website. According to the latest figures, 52,236 hectares of farm land were under irrigation and that is 0.4% less than a year earlier. Most of the irrigated areas are ploughed fields with some water going to orchards.

Serbia has a total area of farmland of just under 3.5 million hectares. Farmers used a total of 92,574 cubic meters of water for irrigation, a third more than a year earlier, most of it from rivers and streams, as well as underground waters, lakes and reservoirs, the RZS said. 

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) is supporting Serbia’s efforts to upgrade its agricultural industry and make it more climate-resilient with a €15 million EBRD loan to finance irrigation infrastructure in Vojvodina.

“The loan is intended to finance the introduction of efficient irrigation near the Borkovac and Pavlovac reservoirs in Fruska Gora, as well as fresh water supply from the Sava River. The new infrastructure will enable top-up irrigation during the peak dry season and provide sufficient water for around 3.500 hectares of land in the Ruma and Sremska Mitrovica municipalities, which is mostly covered by orchards and vineyards,” states the EBRD.

This is the second loan the EBRD is extending to the country for upgrades to its agricultural infrastructure, following a €15 million loan in 2019 for the construction of irrigation services in Svilajnac and Negotin, scheduled for implementation in 2022.

As part of the project, the EBRD will help the Serbian Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Water Management to develop a new training program on efficient irrigation technologies for local farmers, also targeting women, with a view to increase their employment potential and creating new job opportunities for them. 

Healthy vegetables at a grocery store.
©Scott Warman
Serbian food exports have reached a new record in 2021, exceeding $5 billion in total value.

Stara Planina to become a national park

The area of Stara Planina has been under the highest level of state protection since January 5 as a national park, because a procedure has been initiated and the Institute for Nature Protection has prepared a study on these measures.

It is envisaged that, when the procedure is completed, the Stara Planina National Park will cover 116.000 hectares. In addition to the Stara Planina, the Kucaj-Beljanica Mountain in the Homolja region, which covers 45.000 hectares, is also in the process of receiving protection.

The Director of the Pirot Tourist Organization, Bratislav Zlatkov, explained that the protection procedure implies amendments and addenda to the laws that refer to national parks. “By declaring the Stara Planina a National Park, biodiversity, geodiversity, cultural and historical monuments, ambient units, local gastronomy, customs, traditions and culture of this area will be preserved and improved,” said Mr. Zlatkov.

According to the director, Stara Planina will be the largest national park in Serbia because the total area of all national parks in Serbia (which includes Djerdap, Tara, Kopaonik, Fruska Gora, and Sar Planina) is 160.000 hectares, while Stara Planina covers 116.000 hectares alone, and Kucaj and Beljanica are 45.000 acres. Mr. Zlatkov pointed out that with the proclamation of two more national parks in Serbia, the percentage of protected areas will be around 7.5% of the total area of Serbia.

Belgade, the European “green bite” capital 

The British-based portal Uswitch has recently announced that Belgrade is the European capital that is the most suitable for vegetarians, with an average score of 8.85/10. “The average price of a meal in Belgrade is €15.98 which is 32% cheaper than the capital of Malta, Valletta, which is in second place,” writes the portal, which specializes in price comparison.

With a total of 381 restaurants, vegetarians in Belgrade can be spoiled by the choice, the text reads. Valletta’s score, meanwhile, is 8.84/10. Despite the fact that the average price of a meal is slightly more expensive than in Belgrade, the Mediterranean capital has 1,201 suitable restaurants. With 264 suitable restaurants, the Croatian capital, Zagreb, ranks third with an average score of 8.78/10.

However, despite a number of options, the average meal price at one of these highly-rated vegetarian restaurants is the seventh most expensive in Europe, at €32.48. Albania's capital, Tirana, ranks fourth with an average score of 8.76/10 for its vegetarian restaurants.

The Finnish capital Helsinki is the lowest-rated European capital for vegetarian restaurants. Despite the fact that 11% of their population are vegetarians, which is the fourth largest vegetarian population in Europe, restaurants are not up to par with the rest of the continent.