Serbia Newsflash Week 3, 2022

Serbian plans for the Suez canal, the government to launch international agro digitalization tender, pig sector struggles, farmers' strikes over fertilizer on the horizon, the launch of the "Common Fridge" charity project in Belgrade and a nature preservation survey on aquatic bird habitats announced - The week in Serbian agriculture

View of the Drina river valley in Western Serbia
Beeld: ©Ivana Djudic
View of the River Drina in Western Serbia. Serbia's rivers are important aquatic habitats and the The Association for the Protection and Study of Birds of Serbia has recently announced a nation-wide Waterfowl Census in order to assess the state of aquatic birds in the country.

Agriculture Ministry calls for bids to develop software platform

The Serbian Agriculture Ministry has invited offers for software development for its E-Agrar platform. The Ministry wants to develop the platform for online registration for more than 400 thousand farming households. The platform is also intended to provide the efficient management of financial subsidy payments for agricultural and rural development. “The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Water Management has received financing from the World Bank for the Serbian Competitive Agriculture Project and intends to apply part of the proceeds towards payments under the contract Software Solution for E-Agrar,” states the Ministry invitation for bids in the international tender and adds that the software is the first major step towards creating an integrated administration and control system.

The international tender is open until February 22. More at: Request for Bids

Difficult times for pig farmers 

In a year, 37% of the large farms in Serbia were closed, and only the producers who had stocks survived, TV Vojvodina reported. Serbia, as it was pointed out, has a great potential for pork production, (i.e. fatteners) but unpredictable price movements in this branch of animal husbandry are causing problems for farmers.

“Pig breeders faced very low producer prices for the final product and high input costs over the last year,” said pig producer Ronald Holo who has longstanding cooperation with Dutch companies Topigs Norsvin  and CAWI . Mr. Holo added that corn price was €0.1 per kilogram three years ago, while it has recently reached a price of almost €0.25. The price of soybean meal reached almost €0.85, and it used to be €0.3.

According to Mr. Holo, the year was very difficult all over the world, except farmers in some countries received “hidden” subsidies. He expects prices to stabilize this year, and that there will be a better balance between livestock producers and slaughterers. Mr. Holo also pointed out that despite the current purchase price of €1.4, pig breeders are still at big losses.

Lack of nitrogen fertilizers on the Serbian market 

The Stig Farmers' Association will decide in the coming weekend whether or not to organize road blocks because the state cannot provide the entire amount of 160-200 thousand metric tons of nitrogen fertilizers needed for spring crop fertilization, only 16 thousand tons, the President of the association, Mr. Nedeljko Savic, stated for Beta news agency.

Mr. Savic said that the Ministry intends to import 16 thousand tons (only 10% of the required quantity) from Kyrgyzstan, and place it on the market at a price of €750-800 per ton. The intention is to put pressure on the importers of fertilizer who are selling it at a price of €1.000  or more per ton, in order to reduce that price. “I do not know whether such a small amount of the imported fertilizer will manage to bring down the prices of fertilizers offered by importers on the domestic market, or whether we will have to fight for that small imported quantities,” the President of the Association explained. Mr. Savic added that the Minister promised to announce next week that the Ministry had prepared “annual interest-free loans” that farmers should use to buy overpriced fertilizers.

Wheat in a field
Beeld: ©Tomasz Filipek
Serbia annually exports 700 to 800 thousand metric tons of wheat and 300 to 400 thousand tons of flour to Egypt annually, which is why the Serbian government is now looking to get dedicated Serbia silos at the Suez Canal Economic Zone. The silos could serve as a distribution center to cover the Middle East, Africa and West Asia.

A large survey of birds’ aquatic habitats is underway

The Association for the Protection and Study of Birds of Serbia  (DZPPS) is implementing an International Waterfowl Census. The survey will end on January 30.  The association indicated that this census is one of the oldest and most massive activities for monitoring the number of wild birds in the world.

"Thanks to a well-developed network of members, volunteers and associates, we will visit all important water habitats in the country and count the birds ", reads the DZPPS statement.

Special attention will be paid to the West Morava River because it is “Serbia’s most endangered river due to the construction of highways, which changes tens of kilometers of watercourses.”

Serbia wants silos at the Suez canal 

The delegation of the Ministry of Agriculture of Serbia conveyed an interest in silos for storing wheat within the Suez Canal Economic Zone, Reuters reported, referring to the statement of the Egypt-based Economic Zone.

Serbian silos could serve as a distribution center for the Middle East, Africa, and West Asia, Reuters quoted the statement of the Economic Zone. The news does not state whether Serbia is interested in leasing silos or rather, building new capacities for storing wheat.

The export of Serbian wheat to the Egyptian was agreed to at the beginning of 2019 during a visit of the Serbian Minister of Agriculture to Egypt, where all procedures regarding wheat exports were specified. It was stated then that the agreement would contribute to the Serbian export of agricultural products to the Egypt, which has a population of more than 100 million, increasing the export four times over and exceeding $100 million.

Organizing storage space is a necessary step for Serbia to be able to follow through on the export agreement. “Serbia exported 700 to 800 thousand tons, sometimes even up to a million tons of wheat grain and 300 to 400 thousand tons of flour yearly. Therefore, it would be good to open a new foreign market for Serbian wheat,” explained professor Miroslav Malesevic, an agricultural expert.

The first "Common refrigerator" was installed in Belgrade

The first "Common Fridge" was recently installed in downtown Belgrade. The idea of the initiative is that everyone can bring and leave food in the “Common Fridge”, and those who need help can come and serve themselves. The  project was initiated by young climate activists from the WWF.

“We had to overcome a lot of challenges in order to implement this activity as foreseen thus we believe that is the reason that it is so well developed. We are grateful to everyone who supported us and we hope that the food will really reach the ones who need it the most. My colleague Emilija and I want to set up a “Shared closet” as well, to reduce the number of clothes thrown away which also contributes to the climate crisis ", says Ms. Tamara Stojkovic, an activist of the Common Fridge Initiative.