Serbia Newsflash Week 48

Harvest and sowing figures, IPARD subsidy news, agro digitalization, a fertilizer trade decision, nature conservation efforts and another eco-protest in Belgrade – The week in Serbian agriculture

The LAN Budapest-Belgrade team presents:

Farminar 3 - Organic Waste Utilization: From Trash to Treasure

Re-using organic waste and sidestreams is paramount to combatting climate change but it can also generate extra profit for the primary and secondary sectors. The Farminar 3 webinar will provide an overview of organic waste streams in Hungary, review the theoretic and practical approaches to the utilization of organic waste and provide a platform to exchange best practices in the field of circular organic waste re-usal.

Date, location: December 14, 14:00-15:15 CET (UTC+1), online (via Zoom)
How to register: Send an email with your name, organization and email address to
Aerial photo of the River Danube at Kisoroszi, Hungary.
Beeld: ©Bence Balla-Schottner
The River Danube is Europe's second-longest river - And the Mura-Drava-Danube Bisphere Reserve that spans Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia and Hungary was named the world's first five-state biosphere reserve by UNESCO. Often referred to as the "European Amazon," the river system reserve has 700 km of natural waterways and a territory that spans over 930 thousand hectares.

Autumn wheat sowing season completed

This autumn wheat was sowed on about 650 thousand hectares, which is several thousand more than last year, since farmers were motivated by the high market price. Nevertheless, the sowing was 50% more expensive this autumn than a year earlier, said the director of the Grain Association of Serbia, Mrs. Suncica Savovic. She explained to the Beta news agency that in November 2020, farmers sold the wheat at a price of €0.19/kg (VAT included) and that these days a kilogram of wheat costs €0.27-0.28 which has influenced farmers to increase sowing areas. "Sowing of wheat was 50% more expensive this year, the price of seeds increased by 50% and the price of NPK fertilizer increased by as much as 140 percent " explained Savović.

Lower corn yields covered by higher prices

Adverse weather conditions, the summer heat, a lack of precipitation and a selection of hybrids reduced this year's corn yields. Compared to last year, the yields are around 50% lower. Experts say, the yields are at the level of the ten-year average - about six tons per hectare. Farmers are satisfied with the higher purchasing price, but they are much more worried about the sudden spike in the price of raw materials. One of the largest agricultural producers in the Braničevo district, Mr Draško Veličković from Kisiljevo states that this year was very demanding. The right assortment had to be chosen and the right sowing time. “Depending on the “fao” ripening group, we had yields between 5 to 10 tons per hectare. Taking in account what kind of year it was, I am still satisfied," stated Veličković for RTS, the national broadcaster.

Contract for the new tranche of the EU assistance for Serbian farmers to be signed by the end of the year 

The Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Water Management, Branislav Nedimovic announced that the signing of the EU’s IPARD 3 program (the EU grants for agriculture) amounting €280 million is expected by the end of December.

Nedimovic announced this while explaining the changes to the Law on Agriculture and Rural Development. As he said, the main change refers to the introduction of the so-called E-agrar, i. e. an electronic system that will facilitate the work of the Paying Agency and the Treasury Administration. “It has been proposed to introduce electronic applications for subsidies, and people will be able to be informed about the status of their request at any time, because everyone will have their own identification number,” the Minister explained. He added that changes concerning the IPARD funds of the EU are being introduced by shortening the deadlines for submitting requests, and the LPIS system for the identification of land parcels is being introduced. “LPIS is an electronic system so that everyone can receive subsidies for the land on which they carry out agricultural production, regardless of whether they own the land or have a lease agreement,” said the Minister.

Electronic registration of farms to start from July 1, 2022

The National Alliance for Local Economic Development (NALED) announced yesterday that more than 400 thousand agricultural holdings (farms) will be able to apply for state subsidies through the e-Agrar platform from July 1 next year.

According to NALED's research, this will make the current procedure four times faster and reduce the costs of registration by 80%.

“The previous practice of registration required farmers to submit more than 90 data items in 10 different documents, of which, 70% of the information was superfluous, such as proof of land ownership or animals, because they already exist in the databases of various state authorities. Aside from nearly 5 hours that are required for this procedure, the farmers had to pay fees for various extracts and submit certificates each time, which cost them a total of around €2 million a year,” said NALED Executive Director Violeta Jovanovic. She added that data items from more than 20 public registers will be bound, accessible and visible in one place. She also pointed out that up until now, it sometimes took more than 6 months to receive the payment of subsidies, because all the documents were processed and reviewed manually, and the mistakes of officials were frequent. NALED is implementing this project with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

Harvest in a field
Beeld: ©NOC
The fall sowing season and the harvest have been completed. Farmers have sown more land with wheat and corn yields are almost 50% lower than last year.

Serbia will import 100 thousand tons of fertilizer from Russia

The state will not allocate additional money for the purchase of artificial fertilizer, said the Minister of Agriculture Branislav Nedimovic after meeting farmers in town of Pozarevac, who previously announced protests due to the shortage and high price of fertilizer. The Minister said that there would be enough fertilizer for all farmers.

"We will produce certain quantities ourselves in the local fertilizer production plant “Azotara” in Pancevo, and a part will be imported. About 100 thousand tons of nitrogen fertilizer should arrive from Russia alone," Nedimovic stated for “Vecernje Novosti”. He added that it is currently impossible to predict the price of artificial fertilizer. "I informed the farmers that the state will provide enough nitrogen fertilizer for everyone, and we will know the price at the end of December or the beginning of January," the Minister said.

The President of the Independent Association of Farmers of Serbia (NAPS), Jovica Jaksic, confirmed that the Minister promised to provide nitrogen fertilizers necessary for the wheat related spring field works. “It is not in anyone's interest to have a shortage of fertilizers because farmers will experience loss in production, and the state will suffer damage due to lower yields,” Jaksic told the Beta news agency right after a meeting between farmers and the Minister in Pozarevac. He said that Serbia needs 200.000 to 220.000 tons of fertilizers for spring sowing season, and that in case the wheat is not “fed” in the spring, the yield will be halved. In less than a year, artificial fertilizers in Serbia have risen in price by more than 100 percent. The drastic increase in the prices of artificial fertilizers was caused mostly by the price of gas, and a number of factories were closed.

Natura 2000 in Serbia

The EU Delegation to Serbia supports the Ministry of Environmental Protection through various projects in transposing European environmental directives into Serbian legislation. One of these projects is the “EU for Natura 2000 in Serbia”, a two-and-a-half-year undertaking funded by the European Union.

The richness of Serbia's biodiversity is a part of the Natura 2000 Network. At the end of the 2.5-year project, a team of 30 experts identified and mapped special protection sites in Serbia. Currently, 28 countries of the EU Natura 2000 networks cover more than 27 thousand hectares of land and marine sub-regions, covering 18% of the EU’s territory.

Unfortunately, Serbia has a total of merely 7% of its total territory under protection. Nature conservation is an essential topic for Serbia as part of the negotiation process for accession to the European Union, related to the implementation of Chapter 27, which is dedicated to environmental protection and climate change.

For the last 25 years, the EU has been improving its biodiversity and natural resources conservation through the Natura 2000 network, which is considered the largest network of protected areas in the world, because each member state must ensure the legal protection of the sub-regions on its territory. The Natura 2000 network is the main instrument for the protection of biodiversity in the European Union based on the two most important environmental directives - the Birds Directive and the Habitats Directive.

 It is an environmental network of protected areas established to ensure the survival of the most valuable species and habitats, promoting the protection of numerous ecosystems and ensuring that the European nature system remains healthy and resilient. It is considered the largest network of protected areas in the world today..

“European Amazon” in Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Austria and Hungary 

The Mura-Drava-Danube Biosphere Reserve officially became the most significant protected river area in Europe in 2021 and represents an international example of the synergy of nature protection, climate resilience and sustainable development.

UNESCO has declared the territory of this river system, a total of 930 thousand hectares with 700 km of natural waterways, the world’s first five-state biosphere reserve. Within the Interreg lifeline MDD project, these five countries work together to improve the ecological quality of the river corridor and establish a cooperation structure for the future biosphere park.

The Mura-Drava-Danube Biosphere Reserve is a unique area – it has the most extensive floodplains and forests of the River Danube as well as the best-preserved floodplains, the highest number of nesting pairs of white-tailed eagles in continental Europe, one of the most critical fish hatcheries along the Danube, and is home to one of the rarest river birds – the little tern.

Mass ecological protest in Belgrade

Thousands of people who gathered in Belgrade for an environmental protest last weekend urged Serbia’s Government to change its attitude towards environmental problems and start applying the law against the biggest polluters.

The protest was organized by the Eko straza (“Eco Guard”) association over the air pollution in the country. Protesters gathered in downtown Belgrade and walked to the National Parliament and the Presidency of Serbia. They announced new protests in two weeks. This is the third such protest organized by this organization. The previous one took place in September (we reported this in our newsflashes). Protesters carried banners reading, “Come out and fight,” “Breathe carefully,” “The air is dangerous” etc. Their main demands are for the Environmental Protection Agency to return the upper limit of the air quality index category for PM particles to previously valid values – from 55 to 44 micrograms per cubic meter. They also demand that the devices purchased for air purification be redirected from state and local institutions to kindergartens, schools and hospitals, as well as that the sale of inadequate energy sources for household fireplaces be banned.

Serbian traditional dish on the Japanese market

From December 3, a ready-made Serbian dish called Muckalica will make it onto the shelves of Japanese supermarkets and other food stores. This is the first time that a Serbian national dish is sold in ready-made food departments in Japan, reports the documentary series Japanorama. The instant-made version of the Serbian Muckalica was designed by a group of four Japanese citizens, who promote Serbia through the project My Serbia.

The author and initiator of the project is Akiko Koga, an artist and photographer, who resided in Serbia on several occasions. The dish was produced by Matsubara Foods from Fukuoka City, Higashi County. The traditional pork and paprika dish is sold in a nicely designed package, on which, in addition to the Japanese text, the name of the dish is written in Cyrillic and Latin script.