Serbia Newsflash Week 21

Establishment of the Belgrade Bee Garden, cattle farming at risk, a new irrigation strategy, WUR project launch, Green Agenda ambitions, a new covered production subsidy - The week in Serbian agriculture

Water flowing in a stream next to a verdant green field
Beeld: ©eyestetix
Serbia's new irrigation strategy will identify preconditions and investment opportunities in order to help increase productivity in Serbia's agro sectors

Bee garden in downtown Belgrade

To mark World Bee Day, the Dutch Embassy supported a project by the local NGO “ SuperNatural”, forming a bee garden on the bank of the River Danube in Belgrade. Bee-attracting flower mixes were planted and 12 beehives were placed in the garden. The project promotes the concept of “rewilding” cities and encourage participation of the public in bringing nature back to urban areas. Such projects make cities more resilient in the context of climate change, but also increase biodiversity of the urban areas and thus create better quality of life for nature and the people. The conference part brought together all relevant stakeholders and decision makers:  city authorities, landscape and horticulture businesses, research institutions and association of bee keepers in order to put Belgrade on a world map of new global trend of green cities. With this project, the Embassy marked the start of a yearlong activity “Green Groove”.

Vojvodina subsidizes covered production

Provincial Secretary for Agriculture Mr Bozic handed out contracts to 130 Vojvodina farmers granting them financial assistance for building and equipping polytunnel tents for fruit/vegetable production. The total value of contracts is €1.1 million and the grant amounts to €680 thousand. With this support, covered production in Vojvodina will increase its area for the new 125.000 m2. The maximum grant per farmer was €17.800, but for the farms managed by women and/or young farmers and/or located in less favorable areas this amount was 10% higher. With climate change and more unstable weather conditions, the increase of covered production is gaining on importance.

Irrigation strategy for more productive agriculture

The new irrigation strategy will identify preconditions and investment opportunities that will increase productivity of the agriculture sector in Serbia, enable its sustainable development and increase resilience to climate changes by improvement of the irrigation infrastructure, stated the Head of the Water Directorate, Mrs. Milic. At the online workshop “Economy of the irrigation”, she stated that the Law on state budget approved a loan from the EBRD for the implementation of the project “Strengthening of the irrigation in Serbia”. The project aim is to prepare the irrigation strategy with five year action plan that will be drafted by FAO.

This document is very important since its should improve and increase the irrigation infrastructure and agriculture productivity. According to Mrs Milic, “The economy of irrigation raises many questions like: why and where to irrigate; what are the costs and benefits of irrigation of certain crops” . Mr Tankut from EBRD stated that “EBRD is willing to finance building of irrigation infrastructure in Serbia”. He underscored that EBRD is already active in supporting agriculture sector in Serbia. FAO representative, Mr Goss pointed out to important questions like if farmers are going to use the newly built infrastructure. Irrigation and derange systems should be financially sustainable, adjusted to the needs of farmers. 

Mila Mirkovic
Beeld: ©People working on the new bee garden in Belgrade.
The bee garden planting project by the local NGO SuperNatural promotes the concept of "rewilding" cities.

Cattle farming at risk of collapsing  

After the May 1 and Easter holidays in Serbia, live weight pig prices are down again by approximately €0.17, and cattle farming in Serbia might collapse, President of Cattle Breeders of Srem and Macva Zoran Eric stated for the Beta news agency. He said that the live weight pig price in late April was around €1.25 per kg (10% VAT excluded), and now, as the holidays are over, and the demand is lower, the price is €1.1 per kg, VAT excluded. “Cattle farming could be at risk of collapsing once the coronavirus pandemic is over because there is a drop in the price of not only pigs but also bovine animals and sheep. Farmers breeding pigs and other cattle are abandoning production due to increased losses,” Mr. Eric explained. Zoran Matijevic, a co-owner of the company Matijevic, said the pandemic had brought a difficult period for cattle breeders. “We lose some €255 – 340 thousand  per 10.000 fatlings every month. It would be more profitable to stop breeding pigs and sell the animal feed,” Matijevic pointed out. According to him, the main problem regarding pig farming is the import of finished meat products from the EU, where cattle farming involves much higher subsidies.

Cornerstone for the WUR project partner laid down

A cornerstone was laid in Novi Sad for the construction of the new building of the Biosense Institute, which is marked as the European Centre of Excellence. Prime Minister Ana Brnabic said that a lot of work, effort and struggle was needed to start work on that project. The complete building of the Biosense Institute will be financed through the Antares project, worth 28 million euros, the construction works on this building alone will cost more than seven million euros through a loan from the European Investment Bank – EIB  (more details here).

The Antares project is jointly implemented with Wageningen University and Research Center, and DLO from the Netherlands, and supported by the participation of the Serbian Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development. The new home of the European Centre of Excellence will cover almost 7,000 square meters of space. "We are grateful to the EIB and the European Union for recognising the importance of this project, because our partners also told us that Biosense will become a European centre of excellence in Europe. It is the only centre of excellence in Europe outside the European Union," Mrs. Brnabic said. According to her, Biosense is important because it can pull the whole of Serbia towards even more dynamic progress towards the European Union, but also due to the fact that this institute employs young experts, who connect the fields of information technologies for agriculture in innovative ways. For the ANTARES project, €28 million were provided by the European Commission within the Horizon 2020 programme, and the other half was provided by the Republic of Serbia through a loan from the European Investment Bank for scientific infrastructure.

Serbia wants to align with EU Green Agenda

Serbia has a sincere desire to align with EU standards and the Green Agenda and get involved in the Green Deal, which is now perhaps the most important thing for future quality of life in Serbia, PM Ana Brnabic said at an online conference titled Green Industrial Policy. Mrs. Brnabic said the government’s priorities in the sector were improvement and protection of air quality, wastewater treatment and solid waste management. “It is important that, in partnership with EU institutions as well as other partners, the government try to do something to achieve results as soon as possible,” she said. Construction of wastewater treatment plants in 28 Serbian local self-government units would begin by the end of the year noted the Prime Minister. She added that projects aimed at protecting air quality in communities that used fuels such as fuel oil and coal would be launched with European partners and that negotiations on projects for Kragujevac, Kosjeric and Valjevo were underway.

Environmental protection and a green energy transition are the key government priorities. She said the value of investment required for Serbia to meet EU standards in water management alone was estimated at 6 bln euros. “Serbia now has the financial ability to invest in such projects. The time has come to deal with this priority. We have huge technical, professional and financial support from the EU for that,” PM Brnabic said.