Serbia Newsflash, Week 24, 2022

High raspberry and potato prices, Montenegro depending on Serbia for food, organc winemaking with EU support, and a wheat yield that is not great, not terrible - the week in Serbian agriculture

Pouring wine
Beeld: ©Jill Wellington
The organic transition of wineries in Sremski Karlovci was supported by the program Advice for Small Enterprises, funded by the European Union.

Wheat yield expected to be 3 million tons

Director of the Serbia Grains Association, Sunčica Savović , stated that the yield of wheat is expected to be 3 million tons in the country this year, which is slightly lower than in 2021. “It is certainly not a record yield. It will not be less than 4.8 tons per hectare, and if we are lucky enough to reach 5.2 t/ha, the yield will be weaker than last year by only 200 thousand tons,” Ms. Savović  told Tanjug news agency, adding that sowing is expected to begin in two weeks.

The director stated that the final figures will depend on rainfall in the past weeks, which varied from region to region. “Judging by how wheat now looks in the fields at the moment, the north of Backa and Banat region can expect slightly lower yields this year, as well as the area of Belgrade, compared to the southern Backa and central Banat regions, where the yield will be over six tons per hectare,” Savovic estimated.

The director pointed out that there still are problems with export quotas and logistics, and that the new harvest will begin with stocks of 700 thousand tons of wheat from the previous harvest. “The demand for wheat in May and June is not great, so we had a situation where the demand for wheat exports during those two months was less than the quota. Requests for the export of about 90 thousand tons arrived monthly, although the quota is 220 thousand tons,” Savovic said. The director also stated that the barley harvest had started on some plots, with an expected yield of about 4.8 t/ha, which is also slightly less than last year.

Raspberry producers expect higher purchasing price than last year

Representatives of the Association of Raspberry Producers in Serbia stated on Friday last week that they expect the purchase price of raspberries to be €5.1 to €6.8 per kilogram. “We expect this price range because all costs have increased by several dozen percent, from work, fuel, mineral fertilizer to chemicals,” Zoran Stojanovic, a member of the Executive Board of the Association of Raspberry Producers of Serbia, told the Beta news agency.

Mr. Stojanovic said that the first offers from owners of refrigerated storage for the purchase of raspberries are €3.8 to €4.2/kg and that some are offering contracts for €4.2, a month before the harvest, in order to protect themselves from the growing of the produce price.

“This year, the yield of raspberries will certainly be lower due to last year's drought and also because of the bad weather this spring, which was followed by hail that damaged plants. It is estimated that the yield will be no higher than 35 thousand tons, which is lower by about 30% compared to last year when it totaled 50 thousand tons,” said Stojanovic, who also added that raspberries were sold at a price of €2.5 to €3.5/kg last year and that cold storage owners sold them for €8.5.

Stojanovic said that the storage owners earn twice as much as producers and that a lobby has formed this year as well, which already claims that the price should not exceed €4.2/kg, and they are pressuring producers to sign contracts.

Potato prices almost 300% higher than last year

In April this year the price of potatoes was 293% higher year-on-year due to last year's drought and large-scale imports which discouraged domestic production, Guca-based Agro-Mobile company director Ratko Vukicevic explained.  

Mr. Vukicevic said that the potato harvest in 2020 set a new record and that producers used potatoes to feed livestock and threw it away, while last year's drought caused a significant decline in supply while at the same time enormous quantities of potatoes were imported.

The director said that in 2020 wholesalers offered a kilogram of potatoes for €0.12-€0.17 and that they could not be sold and that last year a kilogram of potatoes cost about €0.4. Mr. Vukicevic added that in 2021 around 50 thousand tons of potatoes were imported, mostly from France, and that this spring around 10 thousand tons were also imported monthly, causing many to abandon production.

Mr. Vukicevic stressed that it was very difficult to sell potatoes to large foreign retail chains in Serbia and that the sale of the vegetable in these stores was “steeped in corruption”, while quality played no role in their decisions. The price of other agricultural products also went up in the past year by several dozen percent according to official statistics. From April 2021 up until April this year the price of grains went up 43%, the price of wheat increased by 51.6%, the price of corn rose by 40%, followed by livestock and poultry by 38.7%. The price of fish increased by over 30.5%, eggs by 33.8% and milk by 24.1%.

Wheat in a field
Beeld: ©Tomasz Filipek
It seems that wheat yield in Serbia will not break any records this year but they will not be catastrophic either.

Montenegro to import basic foodstuffs from Serbia

Montenegro must import agricultural products, which is why the government of the country will request from the Serbian government the securing of the supply of basic foodstuffs in the next six months in order to avoid possible shortages on the market. This was stated by the Deputy Prime Minister of Montenegro and the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry, and Water Management, Vladimir Jokovic.

“Montenegro imports goods from Serbia worth almost €0.5 billion, and I know that Serbia is willing to reserve basic food products to Montenegro for the next six months,” stated the Minister for Radio Montenegro. According to Mr. Jokovic, this will be one of the topics of discussion between Montenegrin PM Dritan Abazovic and the Serbian President during their meeting at the end of June.

The government is also considering the possibility of re-forming commodity reserves, the minister added. “State commodity reserves should be formed after an expert analysis, with the goal of the Government of Montenegro securing reserves of basic foodstuffs for at least three months,” said Jokovic, adding that the crisis in the market of agricultural products and energy could last, and that is why the Montenegrin Government should support domestic farmers. “Next year, as much money as possible should be allocated for agriculture in order to significantly increase subsidies and enable farmers to produce even more food. Analyses and balance sheets show that currently the only domestic stocks that we have enough of are watermelons and baby potatoes,” said Minister Jokovic.

Five Serbian wineries in the EU project

Through work with consultants, five wineries in Serbia were given the opportunity to replace the conventional method of cultivating grapevines with organic methods, which resulted in the improvement of the quality of grapes, but also reduced production costs.

In the cradle of Serbian culture and winemaking, Sremski Karlovci, on June 10, a presentation of the results of a group advisory project implemented in five smaller wineries from different regions of Serbia was organized. The project included a series of trainings on the topic of organic grapevine growing, through the program Advice for Small Enterprises funded by the European Union and implemented by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development in cooperation with the Ministry of Economy of the Republic of Serbia.

Nicola Bertolini, Head of Cooperation at the Delegation of the European Union to Serbia, said: “This is much more than supporting winemaking. This is one of hundreds of examples of how the European Union supports small and medium-sized enterprises in Serbia. From high-tech software development companies to rural agricultural businesses, there is a program for everyone."