Serbia Newsflash Week 24

Free movement coming to the "Mini-Schengen," soaring raspberry prices, QR code innovation in export, Serbian success in China, EU fund allocation, pandemic news - The week in Serbian agriculture

Man working in a field.
Beeld: ©Jed Owen
According to an advisor at the Serbian Chamber of Commerce, agriculture, along with construction and the textile industry are the sectors most affected by labor shortages - Which is why free travel with only an ID card within the "Mini-Schengen" area, to be introduced by the end of 2021, will be a welcome change.

Serbia back on the EU safe travel list

On June 17th, EU ambassadors agreed to recommend that Serbia, North Macedonia and Albania be added to the list of countries from which non-essential travel to the European Union will be allowed, the AFP agency reported quoting diplomatic sources. The recommendation is expected to be adopted on June 19th , taking effect on the same day, Radio Free Europe reported.

The EU discusses the epidemiological situation in "third countries" every other week, updating its safe travel list. Even though it's not a legally binding document, the safe list removes a travel ban from the citizens of a state added to the list. Each EU state can opt to demand a negative Covid-19 test or a period of quarantine. Serbia was put on the list last July.

Free movement of workers in “Mini-Schengen” area by the end of 2021

According to information by the Serbian Chamber of Commerce (PKS), the agreement that Serbia, North Macedonia, and Albania signed to allow the free movement of workers among the three countries should be coordinated by the end of the year. Talking about the implementation of a part of the agreement that has to do with the free movement of workers in the so-called Mini Schengen area, Advisor in PKS Mr. Djurdjevic said that traveling with only an ID card had already been made possible.

“I hope other neighbors join us since staff shortages are noticeable in agriculture, construction, and the textile industry,” he noted. He added that many international companies with chains in the Far East were considering relocating their production closer to the parent companies in Western Europe following the pandemic. “We as the Western Balkans could be an interesting destination for that type of work,” Mr. Djurdjevic pointed out.

Wholesale price of raspberries up to €2.7 EUR per kilogram

Around ten days before the harvest, wholesale buyers of raspberries in Serbia are offering to farmers between €2.3 to €2.8 EUR/kg for conventionally grown, and €2.8 to €3.0/kg for organically grown raspberries. Association of Serbian Raspberry and Blackberry Growers President Radovic told the Beta news agency that the price was higher compared to 2020 when it used to be cca €1.8/kg, noting that it was still “not great” because everything from agro-technical measures to plant protection products had become more expensive.

In 2007 and 2008, the price of raspberries was the highest, ranging between €2.4 and €2.7/kg, which is close to the current price, but according to Mr. Radovic, that is only in nominal terms, whereas in adjusted value, everything has become more expensive by several dozen percents, so the buyers’ current offer does not have the same value as 13 or 14 years ago.

“The price is up due to reduced offers regarding the biggest producers – Chile and Poland. In Serbia, it is because of damage caused by stormy weather and neglected raspberry fields. At this moment, it is estimated that the yield in Serbia this year will be halved compared to the average of cca 82,000 tons,” Radovic explained.

Close-up of ripe raspberries.
Beeld: ©ejaugsburg
Wholesale raspberry prices have reached €2.3-2.8 EUR/kg for conventionally grown fruits and €2.8-3.0/kg for organically grown raspberries

“Dairy Sabac” introduces Delta Matrix technology

Mlekara Sabac invested €800,000 in new a technology for product marking and tracking (Data Matrix), thus meeting the requirements for exporting products to 15 export destinations world-wide including the USA, the EU, Russia and other markets, the company announced.

“We have become the first Serbian dairy company to export products using the Data Matrix technology. This way, we fully satisfy the recently introduced demands of the Russian market, in which we have been present for the past ten years. Every product there must have a QR code now,” said Mlekara Sabac, Director of the Maintenance, Energy, and Investment Sector Nenad Ilic. Marking products with unique DM codes allows consumers to use phone apps and find information about the product in question.

Serbian food products at fair in Ningbo

Serbia is taking part in the second China-Central and Eastern Europe (CEEC) Expo & International Consumer Goods Fair in Ningbo, China, within its national pavilion with products made by 18 companies. These include wines and other beverages, organic products, jams and spreads, dried fruits, dietary supplements, edible oils, as well as food and cosmetics intended for pets.

The establishment of the national stand was done with the Ministry of Trade and the Chamber of Commerce. The fair offers trade shows in three categories: a CEEC exhibition, an international consumer goods exhibition, and a permanent exhibition of imported commodities. The expo has a total floor area of 200,000 m2, with more than 2,000 exhibitors.

“To enhance trade and economic cooperation with the 17 CEEC countries, the Chinese government has specified Ningbo as the hub for promoting trade and economic cooperation. Ningbo intends to import goods worth $10 million from CEE, which is a great opportunity for Serbian companies,” said the head of the Chamber representative office in China, Mrs. Grubor Stefanovic.

The EU sets aside €14 billion for the Western Balkan and Turkey

The European Parliament and the European Council reached a political agreement concerning the Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance (IPA 3), with a total budget of €14.162 billion for the Western Balkans and Turkey in 2021-2027. This instrument supports candidate countries and potential candidates on their path toward fulfilling the EU accession criteria.

“This long-awaited agreement on our ambitious financing assistance is a positive, welcome, and strong signal for the Western Balkans and Turkey. The agreed package is a solid investment in the future of the region, supporting the implementation of key political, institutional, social, and economic reforms to comply with EU standards and progressively align with its rules and policies,” said Commissioner for Neighborhood and Enlargement Olivér Várhelyi.

Brussels notes that IPA 3 will provide support to Albania, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia, and Turkey starting retroactively from January 1, 2021.