Serbia Newsflash Week 49

Increasing organic food export, conflicts in the dairy sector, Belgrade's addition to the Michelin gastro guide, EU accession negotiations progressing, and a digital business platform launch and what it will mean to investments in the Western Balkans - The week in Serbian agriculture.

Snowy waterfront, River Danube, Belgrade, Serbia.
Beeld: ©Ljubomir Žarković
Belgrade and Serbia have been included in the Michelin Guide, with 14 restaurants.

Export of organic food products on steady increase

The Minister of Agriculture of Serbia, Branislav Nedimovic, stated that the expected export of organic products from Serbia in 2021 will be more than €40 million, which is almost nine times more than a decade ago when exports amounted up to €4.5 million.

“The size of the area where organic crops are currently being grown in Serbia is a 24 thousand hectares in total. Ten years ago, organic food was grown on about 4.500 hectares, and in 2014, on barely 10 thousand hectares,” the Minister said at the awards ceremony at the NLB KomBank Organic competition.

The Minister also stated that all requests for subsidies submitted by organic producers will be fulfilled, and €1.27 to 1.7 million will be at their disposal. Mr. Nedimovic pointed out that organic production is one of the brightest parts of domestic agriculture, and attributed its progress in Serbia to the change in people's awareness of the importance of healthy (and organic) food products, but also to a richer society that has more money to buy healthy food.

The minister also expressed regret that the agreement from 2019 about export of organic food from Serbia to Scandinavia failed due to the coronavirus pandemic, but he announced that it could soon become relevant again.

Dairy producers seek the increase of purchasing price for their product

Milk producers in Serbia have sent an invitation to the CEO of Imlek, the biggest dairy processing company in Serbia, to discuss the increase of the purchasing price of milk, threatening with a protest and a road blockade should the request be denied, the president of the Association of Cattle Breeders, Mrs. Sanja Bugarski stated for Beta news agency.

Mrs. Bugarski also stated that Imlek, which is the largest buyer of raw milk in Serbia, will not pay the real price of milk and that producers now receive from €0.30-0.32 per liter, and in 2015 a liter of milk costed €0.36. “Imlek is the leader on the domestic market and dictates the price to other dairy producers as well. Milk producers have sent a request to the director to talk and are waiting for an invitation, and if they are not invited, they will block the supply,” said Mrs. Bugarski. She added that the production price of milk is €0.47, and that a few months ago, when dairies publicly expressed dissatisfaction, several smaller dairies raised the price by €0.017 -0.02 per liter.

Earlier this year, in order to alleviate the financial burden on producers, the state raised the dairy subsidy from €0.06 to €0.08 EUR per liter of milk, which, according to Mrs. Bugarski, indirectly influenced dairies to continue refusing to raise the purchasing price because they believe it was increased due to the subsidy. Mrs. Bugarski explained that the price cap of UHT milk that the Serbian Government introduced last week will not affect the dairy industry since the dairies make their profit on processed foods such as yogurt, cheeses, sour cream and other dairy products, not milk.

Prime Minister on capping the prices of basic food stuffs

The decision of the Serbian Government to cap the prices of oil, milk, meat and other basic food-stuffs is “the most responsible and best decision at the moment”, said Prime Minister Ana Brnabic. PM Brnabic explained in the National Assembly of Serbia that the Government does not want to interfere in the free market or to intervene and disrupt market relations, but still does so, as the PM said, because there is an uncontrolled rise in prices.

“Neither we in Serbia, nor anybody else anywhere can, at this moment, guess what will happen next in the energy market in terms of rising prices for gas, electricity, energy, and how it will affect other prices,” PM Brnabic stated, also adding that the Government wants to keep the prices of basic foodstuffs predictable, stable and safe until the situation on the market stabilizes. “We will intervene, if necessary, by using Commodity Reserves, keeping governmental involvement as minimal as possible, not to interfere in the market, but again, while there are quakes, we still guarantee stability for all our citizens,” PM explained.

Healthy vegetables at a grocery store.
Beeld: ©Scott Warman
Prime Minister Ana Brnabic has recently defended the Serbian government's decision to cap the prices of basic food stuffs in a speech in the National Assembly. Runaway inflation has substantially increased the prices of basic food products in Serbia in the past year.

Belgrade restaurants in Michelin guide

The globally known Michelin Guide included Belgrade and Serbia in its selection and recommended 14 restaurants from the capital, one of which was awarded the Bib Gourmand label. “Belgrade has once again proved that it is a top gastronomical destination on the international stage, offering rich, diverse, and dynamic gastronomical experiences,” said Minister of Trade and Tourism Mrs. Tatjana Matic.

The Ministry stated that “Iva New Balkan Cuisine” has been awarded the Bib Gourmand label, which is given to top gastronomic quality restaurants that offer excellent value for money. The Guide also included “Bela Reka” restaurant, which is especially recognized for its commitment to sustainable agriculture development and the fact that the ingredients used to prepare food in this restaurant are completely organic and come from the Homolje Mountains, Eastern Serbia.

Serbia to open new cluster in negotiation process with the EU

EU member states have reached an agreement on the opening of Cluster 4 (Green Agenda and Sustainable Connectivity) in the membership negotiations with Serbia. Within this cluster, four new chapters will be opened at the same time:

  • Chapter 14 on Transport policy,
  • Chapter 15 on Energy,
  • Chapter 21 on the Trans-European Network, and
  • Chapter 27 on Environment and Climate Change.

This decision should be officially adopted by the ambassadors of the member states at a meeting during this week, which will put Serbia in a situation to take the next step in the negotiations on EU membership after a two-year standstill. According to media outlets, Cluster 4 will be opened at the Intergovernmental Conference, which will be held on December 14 in Brussels, after the meeting of the Council of Ministers of General and European Affairs of the EU.

WB6 CIF digital business platform launched

Market Access, a digital platform promoting the Western Balkans as an investment destination, has been launched, the Western Balkans 6 Chamber Investment Forum (WB6 CIF) announced.

The unique platform, which is a database that will be used to connect 350,000 companies from the six regional economies, also aims to promote joint activities by Western Balkan businesses in European and global markets.

One of the platform's functionalities is designed to help companies interested in becoming a part of domestic, regional and global supply chains. Milica Brasanac from Serbian Chamber of Commerce, says the platform's membership is growing on a daily basis. "The structure of users vary in terms of both business activity and company size, which ranges from micro enterprises from Serbia and the Western Balkans region to internationally renowned companies and groups," Mrs. Brasanac explained.

The field of agriculture has the fewest innovators, the most are in food services

Most innovators in the Serbian economy are in the sector of accommodation and food services, almost 70%, and in the sector of Information and Communication, about 60%, the Statistical Office of the Republic of Serbia (RZS) announced.

On the other hand, the lowest representation of innovators is in the sector of agriculture, forestry and fisheries, about 35%. The share of companies with at least one type of innovation is 54.79%, according to the RZS data.

More than 69% of large companies, about 58% of medium-sized and 54% of small companies are innovative. However, only 0.9% of companies used tax incentives for scientific research and other innovative activities. Innovative activities are almost the same among companies engaged in production and service activities - 54% both.