Serbia Newsflash Week 37

Novi Sad fair launches, the results of the apple harvest, renewable energy in agriculture, mounting climate damages, more eco-protesting, and the case of the river system that's "Europe's Amazon" - The week in Serbian agriculture.

A bowl of fresh apples
©Nicky
This year, Serbia expects an apple harvest of between 530 and 540 thousand tons. Generally, there will be much more apples on the global market this year.

Agriculture Fair in Novi Sad starts September 18

The 88th International Agriculture Fair in Novi Sad starts this weekend and will host exhibitors from 17 countries. Due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, the oldest agriculture exhibition in the Western Balkans had been previously postponed for a year. This year the much anticipated fair will take place with necessary precaution to keep exhibitors and visitors safe and healthy.

The expo involves agro mechanization exhibits, cattle shows, hosts numerous seminars and business to business meetings. The Orange Pavilion will represent Dutch agriculture in Hall One, hosting a dozen Dutch companies from different agricultural sectors.

Good apple harvest expected, sales challenging

Fruit growers should start harvesting apples in the coming weeks. This season, the harvest will start slightly later due to the cold spring.

Droughts and high summer temperatures did not harm the apple crops since fruit growers apply new technologies with irrigation systems in place. According to Professor Zoran Keserović, Serbia will have between 530 thousand and 540 thousand metric tons of apples this season.

 "It is expected that the amount of apples on the global market will be higher this year. In the European Union, the yield will be 10% higher than last year – expecting around 11.1 million tons of produce. Poland alone will produce 4.15 million tons of apples,” the Professor said.

“There will be 1.4 million tons of apples in Russia,” Professor Keserović added. “That is 200 thousand kilograms more than last season, while in China the harvest yield is projected to be 43 million tons. There will be an increase in yields for many varieties: Gala, Idared, Jonagold, Red delicacy ."

The professor advises Serbian fruit growers to sell if they manage to get a price of 30 eurocents per kilogram for bulk sales. “If the price is above 30-35 eurocents, everything should be sold immediately." Prof. Keserović also said that apples of the Gala variety, whose harvest is in progress, has an excellent wholesale price 50-55 eurocents.

In Serbia, there are a lot of unsold apples from last season since the farmers were hesitant to sell, expecting the price to increase. Since that did not happen many fruit growers did not do well financially. This year a record  yield of apples is expected worldwide meaning that it might be difficult for those farmers to improve their financial situation.

The largest landowners in Serbia

For several years, the three largest agricultural landowners in Serbia were Petar Matijevic, Miodrag Kostic, and Miroslav Miskovic. The situation is different now as only Matijevic remains in the top three. The other two spots belong to Miroslav Aleksa from Pancevo, and the company Al Dahra, reports daily Blic.

The reason for this change is that some of the previous largest landowners, like MK Group, decided to sell parts of their land and invest the money in production modernization, the newspaper explains. Matijevic, on the other hand, remains number one. After purchasing Vrbas-based Mitron Group, Matijevic also acquired the agricultural holding Sava Kovacevic, increasing his land ownership by another 4 thousand hectares. Matijevic now has 40 thousand ha under cultivation, 33 thousand ha of which he owns.

In second place is Miroslav Aleksa, the founder and owner of Pancevo’s Almex. According to data by Agrosmart, Aleksa farms around 20 thousand ha (he owns half of it and leases the other half). Finally, Al Dahra is in third place. It is a company that bought the property of PKB Corporation in 2018, which included nearly 17 thousand ha of arable land. The Agrosmart data show that Miroslav Miskovic, the owner of Delta Holding, is in fourth place, with ca 13 thousand ha of land under cultivation. Out of the total, he owns some 10 thousand ha.

MK Group is in fifth place. After certain sales, the group has 12,500 ha of land under cultivation as opposed to the 19 thousand ha it used to have.

The first five-state biosphere reserve in the world

The “Mura-Drava-Danube Biosphere Reserve” extends over almost one million hectares and 700 kilometers of rivers flowing through Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Hungary and Serbia. It has been recognized by UNESCO as the largest protected river area in Europe, announced the fund for nature protection WWF Adria. 

The statement adds that UNESCO declared the area as the first "Five-state biosphere reserve” in the world, and due to its unique habitats and numerous rare species it is also known as the “European Amazon”. This is also an important contribution to the implementation of the EU Strategy for the Protection of Biodiversity, which aims to restore 25 thousand kilometers of rivers and protect 30%  of the land in the EU by 2030.

Aerial photo of the River Danube at Kisoroszi, Hungary.
©Bence Balla-Schottner
The River Danube. The Mura-Drava-Danube Biosphere Reserve is the world's first "Five-state biosphere reserve," and home to numerous species and special habitats. It also sometimes referred to "Europe's Amazon."

The countryside has renewable energy in the palms of its hands

Opportunities for energy efficiency and a greater use of renewable energy sources are far greater in the countryside than in the city, because people in the countryside have it all in the palm of their hand – this was said the a webinar Renewable energy sources in agriculture organized by the EU Info Network.

During the webinar, the project manager of the EU Delegation to Serbia, Boris Ilijevski, pointed out that savings can be made and the quality of life in the countryside can be improved. "In the city, we are limited to replacing carpentry and using solar panels. People in the countryside have everything in their hands, some have geothermal energy at their farms; biomass, biogas have no limits. I believe that the opportunities for people in the countryside are far greater than in urban areas," Mr. Ilijevski said.

He also added that Serbia is currently in the phase of drafting national legislation for biofuels, and added that, when that process is completed, there will be a need for a larger share of biofuels and raw materials. "The transition from food production to the production of agricultural crops used
for energy use is a challenge not only for Serbia but for the entire EU. How to prevent and limit the transition from food production to oilseeds and other crops that will be used for biofuel will be a challenge" stated Mr. Ilijevski.

Damage from climate change in Serbia exceeds €7 billion 

Since 2000, Serbia has recorded direct damage from climate change exceeding €7 billion, a representative of the Serbian Chamber of Commerce (PKS) said at an online conference on climate change and green transition.

The event was organized by the PKS and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). “Over the past few weeks in Serbia and the entire region, the discussion about climate change has become more prominent as the consequences can be seen in our homes, wallets, yards, and cities,” stated Mr. Mitrovic, the Head of the PKS Center for Circular Economy. According to him, the role of the business sector is essential when it comes to adapting to climate change and becoming more resilient to it. The partnership with NGOs  helps boost the relevant capacities of institutions and citizens, he noted.

The representative of PKS spoke about the significance of the strategic goals of green transition, the green economy and decarbonisation of the industry. It was noted that the green agenda will get a significant place by the end of the year and become one of the PKS’s priorities along with the circular economy.

More environmental protesting in Belgrade

Over 30 environmental and nature conservation organizations joined by thousands of Belgraders,
protested together in downtown Belgrade last weekend. The protest called “Uprising for Survival” emphasized the increased air pollution in cities throughout Serbia, water shortages, the fact that the construction of hydroelectric micro-plants endanger river flows in Serbia, the cutting down of forests and opening of mines that will further contaminate the soil.

The organizers of the protest regard such gatherings as a “fight for the survival of all”.