Serbia Newsflash Week 45

Law amendment on IPARD funds, new agri policy program in planning stage, EU legal harmonization updates, biogas production, food waste program extension, and the first Serbian seed deposit at the Global Seed Vault in Svalbard - The week in Serbian agriculture

Wheat ears
Beeld: ©Picjumbo
Serbia's government started the planning phase of the drafting of a National Program for Agriculture for 2022-2024. This program will define agricultural development as well as Serbia's legal harmonization with the EU'S CAP.

Law on Agriculture amended for easier access to IPARD funds

The Agricultural Committee of the Serbian Assembly adopted a proposal to amend the Law on Agriculture and Rural Development, which enables advance payments of half of the funds applied for under IPARD programs, with an appropriate bank guarantee or equivalent guarantee as collateral.

Representatives of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Water Management explained that the equivalent guarantee will have to amount to 110% of the approved advance amount. It will be specified later what that guarantee will be. The change will refer to the applications for IPARD funds that are yet to be submitted, as well as those that have been submitted in the last two rounds, if no decisions have been issued on them.

Ms. Jelena Blagojevic, State Secretary at the Ministry of Agriculture added that the amendments to the Law include the introduction of an electronic register of agricultural holdings, E-Agrar, as an exclusive way of registering, changing, and deleting from the register of farm holdings.

In addition, two more apps are being introduced: AJAX, which serves to monitor payments in agriculture, and LPIS, which serves to identify land parcels. Blagojevic stated that E-Agrar will start to be applied from July 1 next year, LPIS from January 1, 2025, and AJAX from January 1, 2027.

Ministry of Agriculture begins preparation of the National Program 2022-2024

The Ministry of Agriculture of Serbia has started preparations for drafting a National Program for Agriculture for 2022-2024, the adoption of which is planned for early 2022.

The National Program for Agriculture will define goals and directions of the development of this sector in the medium term that are envisaged in the Strategy of Agriculture and Rural Development for 2014-2024.

As a planning document, the National Program for Agriculture defines the guidelines of the development of agricultural policies in the upcoming three-year period, as well as the dynamics and the manner of harmonization with the EU Common Agricultural Policy. The adoption of the National Program for Agriculture for 2022-2024 enables continuity in the planning of agricultural policies, considering it is a  follow up document to the National Program for Agriculture 2018-2020.

The National Program for Agriculture 2022-2024 defines in more detail the measures and activities which relate to direct support to the production, a common market organization of agricultural products, institutional and systemic support as well as organic production.

Serbia is harmonizing its laws with the EU in order to preserve the environment

The Parliamentary Committee for Environmental Protection adopted the Draft Law on Biocidal Products and the proposal for amendments to the Law on Integrated Prevention and Control of Environmental Pollution, which means harmonization with EU standards and the existing law on environmental protection.

Ms. Aleksandra Imsiragic Djurovic, Assistant Minister of Environmental Protection, remarked that the current Law on Biocidal Products was passed in 2009 and that it was harmonized with the acquis communautaire, but that in 2012 the EU passed the Regulation on market availability and use of biocidal products.  

Assistant Minister Djurovic explained that the goal of the Law is to improve the management system of biocidal products through new, clear and transparent rules and legal procedures, which ensure that biocidal products on the Serbian market will have no harmful effects on human and animal health, and neither on the environment.

Regarding the agenda item considering the Draft Law on Amendments to the Law on Integrated Prevention and Control of Environmental Pollution, Aleksandra Imsiragic Djurovic said that the changes refer to harmonization with the EU environmental legislation. The changes will regulate the issuance of integrated permits and the timeframe for the transition period with the EU, which expired on December 31, 2020.

Food waste
The food waste collecting program that started in Serbia on November 1, 2020, has been extended until next spring as the pandemic lockdown measures slowed down its process. In Serbia, the catering industry and public institutions produce 40 thousand tons of food waste and in turn, emit about 28 thousand tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year.

Timeframe for collecting one thousand tons of food waste extended

The food waste campaign, which started on November 1 last year and was supposed to end on November 1 this year, was initiated by the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ), the National Alliance for Local Economic Development (NALED) and EsoTron, a food waste collection company.

The challenge of collecting one thousand tons of food waste has been extended until April 1 next year, stated the organizers. The set goal for the participants is to hand over 1.000 tons of kitchen waste to EsoTron at a promotional price and thus support the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions by 750 tons.

Due to restrictive pandemic measures, the achievement of the set goal has been slowed down, so the initiative has been extended. “Although it is the legal obligation of restaurants to hand over all food waste to the operator, only 13% of caterers do that. Unlike used edible oil, which the operators pay for, restaurants, hotels and institutions have to pay for each kilogram in the case of food, because taking over the waste free of charge does not pay off to operators”, stated  Slobodan Krstovic, the Head of Environmental Protection Alliance at NALED.

Mr. Krstovic explained that this is the reason why they provided much lower prices within this initiative, so that as many kitchens as possible could be included. It is estimated that hotels, restaurants and public institutions in Serbia annually produce 40 thousand tons of food waste, emitting about 28 thousand tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

From sludge to biogas

Described by local media as one of the most modern facilities of its type, a newly built wastewater treatment facility in the Serbian city of Kruševac is making biogas. The wastewater treatment plant is turning the leftover sludge into biogas which can then be used to produce electricity or heat.

The sludge is dried in the sun in a large greenhouse-like structure. Once dried, the sludge is similar to lignite and can be used as a source of energy. As Mr Vladimir Milosavljević, Director of public utility company Vodovod Kruševac, explains “the facility is equipped with the most advanced technology which uses the process of anaerobic digestion to process sludge. The sludge releases biogas which is then stored in a reservoir and is turned via a gas generator into electric and thermal energy”.

Agriculture sector generates €1.4 billion surplus

Serbia's external trade in the agriculture and food sector in the first nine months of this year was up by 14.5% y-o-y, and the sector generated a €1.4 billion external trade surplus, which is a y-o-y increase of around 24%, reads the statement of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Serbia (PKS).

Overall external trade in the sector in the mentioned period exceeded €4.7 billion. Exports by the agriculture and food industry were over €3 billion worth, or 16.7% more than in the same period of 2020, stated the PKS.

According to figures released by the national statistical office, agriculture and the food sector accounts for 19.7% of Serbian exports. Agriculture and food imports were worth slightly below €1.7 billion, which was an approx. 10% increase, and accounted for 8.1% of Serbia's total imports.

At least that's what the statistics and estimates say of this year's foreign trade trends. Data regarding  exports and income from sells of agricultural goods on the global markets are getting better. Nevertheless, it is worth having in mind that the greatest credit for such results lays with the high prices of agricultural products in last nine months. The structure of export shows the highest percentage of exported goods are a raw materials, not processed products with added value.

Serbia deposits seeds at Svalbard vault for first time 

Serbia has deposited seeds of agricultural crops at the Svalbard Global Seed Vault  for the first time ever, announced the Serbian Embassy in Oslo.

Svalbard is a Norwegian archipelago in the Arctic Ocean. The Svalbard Global Seed Vault was started as the Nordic Gene Bank in 1984, and in 2004, it was established that Svalbard was an appropriate location for a genetic seed bank which is effectively a backup facility to safeguard the world’s crop diversity.

The efforts made by the Institute of Field and Vegetable Crops in collaboration with the Norwegian government and the Nordic Genetic Resource Centre (NordGen) has resulted in a major step being made for food security of future generations in Serbia."A huge honour! For the first time, Serbia is depositing agricultural crop seeds at the Svalbard Global Seed Vault," said the Serbian Ambassador to Norway. 

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault, which will now also store Serbian samples, is located in a retrofitted abandoned coal mine near Longyearbyen. The town which lies at 78°13’ Northern Latitude, is the northernmost habited human settlement in the world.