Serbia Newsflash Week 50

Raspberry production declining despite high producer prices, food contaminant legal harmonization, a new viticulture institute in the making, rising inflation figures, IPA III projects in the pipeline, Serbia's renewable energy plans, and Serbia's continuing e-commerce explosion - The week in Serbian agriculture

Raspberries basically
Beeld: ©Roy Javier
Despite high producer prices, the production volumes of raspberries are falling in Serbia.

Price of raspberries rising but production declining

Despite the fact that the revenue from the export of raspberries has increased compared to previous years, producers are still facing a decline in production and lower operation volume compared to production capacities. This was highlighted at the meeting of the Group of Fresh and Frozen Fruits and Vegetable Producers of the Serbian Chamber of Commerce.

It was stated that this year's yield was between 80 and 90 thousand metric tons and that the producer purchase price was between €3.4 and €3.8 per kilogram.

In the first ten months of 2021, €290 million worth of raspberries were exported from Serbia, which is €75 million more than in the same period last year. However, there is a decline in production due to the poor quality of planting materials, the shortage of professional staff and the lack of seasonal labor. The problem is that modern agro-technical measures, which would improve the conditions at the plantations and increase the yield are not applied.

The leading export markets for Serbian raspberries are Germany, France, the United Kingdom and Belgium, as well as the United States, where a significantly higher price was reached this year than in European countries.

Level of aflatoxin in milk will be harmonized with the EU standard from December 2022

The Serbian Ministry of Agriculture has published a Rulebook regulating changes of maximum concentrations of certain contaminants in food. The changes are, above all, applied on the food list to the creation of acrylamide. It is a carcinogenic substance whose highest concentrations could be found in starch-rich substances that have been exposed to temperatures above 120°C for a long time.

The Rulebook is available at the Ministry's website for references of maximum concentrations of certain contaminants in food. According to this Rulebook the level of aflatoxin in milk will be reduced to 0.05 micrograms/kilogram as of December 1, 2022. The current acceptable level is 0.25mcg/kg.

Institute for fruit farming and viticulture to be built in Sremski Karlovci

The Municipality of Sremski Karlovci and the Urban Planning Institute of Vojvodina have signed an agreement to prepare a project documentation to build the Institute for Fruit Farming and Viticulture in Sremski Karlovci.

According to the website of the local government, this is the first step toward creating the new scientific institute, which will eventually become the National Institute for Viticulture, as decided two years ago. The plan for the future institute complex, which will posess large grapevine areas, is to serve as a modern basis for the future development of Serbian winemaking and viticulture, with the aim of improving the production of grapes and wine in Serbia, but also in the entire region.

The Institute will deliver services to wine producers and students by: educating and informing them of current trends in winemaking, by gathering all stakeholders when it comes to winemaking and viticulture, as well as through expert-scientific and research activities.

Y-O-Y inflation reaches 7.5%

In November of this year, the monthly inflation was 0.9%, and the y-o-y inflation was 7.5%, the Statistical Office of the Republic of Serbia (RSZ) reported this week.

Prices of personal consumption goods and services in November, compared to December 2020, increased by an average of 7.4%. The prices that increased in November are those of food and non-alcoholic beverages (1.5%), transport (1.3%), restaurant and hotel services, clothing and footwear (1.2% each), furniture, house equipment, and apartment maintenance (0.8%).

Housing, water, electricity, gas, and other fuels, as well as health services (0.6% each) also became more expensive. Prices of communications and education (0.1% each) increased as well. Regarding the data published by the RZS, the National Bank of Serbia (NBS) announced that it estimates that inflation will peak between the end of 2021 and the beginning of 2022 and that it will gradually decline from the second quarter of 2022.

According to the NBS projection, inflation is expected to return to the target range of 3% in the middle of next year, with a deviation of +/- 1.5%. When observed according to structure, three-quarters of the y-o-y inflation in November was determined by the movement of food and energy prices.

Buying things online.
Beeld: ©Pickawood
E-commerce has been one of the most successful sectors during the pandemic year so far. In Serbia, there were 14 million online commercial transactions in 2020, and the figure for 2021 is expected to reach 18 million.

The first projects coming in the Economic and Investment Plan for the Western Balkans in late December

The IPA III pre-accession assistance fund totalling €9 billion, approved for the period 2021-2027, is to be put into effect by the end of December this year. The fund is to finance projects from the EU Economic and Invesment Package for Western Balkans and it is anticipated that additional funds of around €20 billion will be allocated.

The EU package, adopted in October 2020 with the aim of attracting considerable private investments, defines priority developments in the areas of : 1. climate action, including decarbonisation, energy and mobility; 2. circular economy, addressing in particular waste, recycling, sustainable production and efficient use of resources;  3. biodiversity, aiming to protect and restore the natural wealth of the region; 4. fighting air, water and soil pollution and 5. sustainable food systems and rural areas. Digitalization will be a key enabler for the above five pillars in line with the concept of the dual green and digital transition.

Sources from the European Commission told Beta news agency that some projects from the Western Balkan countries had already arrived in Brussels and each of the projects, which must be "very thoroughly prepared," would be reviewed individually.

According to the EC officials, it is especially important that the Western Balkans adopt and achieve the EU climate and energy goals of reducing CO2 emission by 55% by the end of this decade, which requires thorough transformations.

Serbian Government to develop solar and wind projects in order to decrease CO2 footprint

Serbia drafts the Economic Reforms Program every year as a candidate country for the EU membership, thus preparing for the economic and fiscal supervision within the Union. The draft is prepared by the Ministry of Finance.

The draft Economic Reforms Program (ERP) for the period 2022-2024 envisages the implementation of state projects for the construction of wind farms with a capacity of 3 thousand megawatts and solar power plants with a capacity of 8,300 MW.

A new investment plan has been produced with projects in energy and mining worth about €17 billion out of which about €12 billion is planned for wind farms, solar power plants and hydropower plants.

If all projects from the investment plan are implemented, CO2 emissions will be reduced by about 23 million tons, according to the draft.

Growth in trade despite COVID-19

E-commerce overpassed the results of 2020 as early as September this year. The retail sales, which had a growth of 4% last year, are increasing by 10% this year, explained Mr. Uros Kandic, the State-Secretary of the Ministry of Trade at the presentation of the Draft Trade Strategy for 2025.

Mr. Kandic reiterated that the pandemic brought about a boom in e-commerce, and that last year there were a total of 14 million transactions, and in 2021, 18 million are expected. Mr. Kandic added that the growth of online RSD payments is 80% higher than in 2020. “We hope that, thanks to favorable regulations and strategy, growth will continue in the coming years,” Mr. Kandic said, also emphasizing that the trade sector in Serbia generates 15% of the jobs and that this year there are 360 thousand of them, which is 15 thousand more than last year. “The Serbian market is the most promising in the region and there is room for more retail chains,” he said, emphasizing that there are indeed announcements of the arrival of new retail chains. He stated that the amendments to the Law on Trade will work on improving competitiveness.

Serbian brandy awarded again

After winning the great gold medal and the titlfood e of “the best rakija” in the world at the Spirits Selection by Concours Monial de Bruxelles last year, the “Nirvana” brandy from Destillery Zaric  had made it to the final runoff of the spirit selection and was awarded with gold medal this year as well. The competition took place in late October this year and 1.400 drinks from eighty-four countries have been tested by eighty-seven judges.