Serbia Newsflash Week 23

Ag drone testing, circular economy roadmap, export figures, agri R&D - The last week in Serbian agriculture

An agricultural drone can be seen placed in a green field, ready to take off.
©Mila Mirkovic

Drones in agriculture

The Agriculture extension service has used drone technology in spraying field crops in the vicinity of Belgrade for the first time this May. The corn fields of the Agriculture High School in Obrenovac were treated against weeds and pests by using an unmanned flying vehicle. According to the Assistant Minster for Rural Development this was a try-out meant to evaluate the effects on crop yields by using this type of technology in agriculture. If the results are satisfactory, the Ministry will include the purchase of drones in subsidy scheme in the future as well as recommend the amendment of the curriculum for high schools classes.

Serbia presents roadmap to circular economy

Serbia has made a roadmap to circular economy, with the goal being to initiate a dialogue between decision-makers and representatives of the industry, academic sector and civil society for the purpose of encouraging the industry to innovate, the Ministry of Environmental Protection announced. The document, done with the support of UNDP, will support the dialogue of actors about the increase of market options of producing through circular business models, creating new jobs and promoting business, together with saving the environment. The intention of the document is to encourage the entire society to change attitudes in perception, culture and in relation to resources. The roadmap has been modelled after similar documents introduced in EU countries such as Slovenia, the Netherlands and others. Serbia is the first Western Balkan country with such a roadmap for circular economy.

Hampered trade

Due to certain political decisions the trade between Serbia and Kosovo has been hindered again. Reed more in our report here.

Subsidized credits for farmers in eleven banks in Serbia

The Ministry of Agriculture signed a contract with eleven banks in Serbia for subsidizing loans for agriculture production. This type of financial support to agriculture producers proved to be very efficient in the past as it enables farmers to borrow money from commercial banks under more favorable conditions. Through this program, the Ministry covers part of the interest rate of the bank. Farmers can apply for subsidized loans until November 1st at Credit Agricole Serbia, NLB, ProCredit Bank, Vojvodina Bank and seven other banks.

Additional state support measures

The Serbian government adopted a regulatory framework to offer additional support to the tourism, hospitality, and passenger transport sectors due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. As announced, business entities in those sectors will be offered current liquidity loans and working capital loans through the Development Fund under special terms. That includes a repayment term of up to five years and a grace period of up to two years.

Meat processor from Vojvodina resumes exports to Russia

Vojvodina-based meat processing company “Carnex” has been allowed to export its products to the Russian market again since June 1st . The decision refers to the export of heat-treated pork and beef products, which Carnex used to export to the Custom’s Union of Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Russian Federation in the past. Namely, based on the complete documentation submitted by the Serbian Ministry of Agriculture, Russia’s Federal Service for Veterinary and Phytosanitary Supervision announced that the analysis of the submitted material showed that all the irregularities had been eliminated. Carnex underlines that products intended for the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) markets involve special announcements, records, and monitoring, which can be proved through the entire food safety system implemented in line with the prescribed procedures and the system quality program. At the “2019 Prodexpo” international food show in Moscow, competing with 2,309 exhibitors from 65 countries, Carnex was the only foreign producer to win gold and silver medals for quality products.

Various apples.
©Mike Mozart
In the first three months of the year, Serbia exported 56 thousand tons of apples. Yields are 5% down this season, which means that prices this year might potentially be the highest in a decade.

$650 million inflow is expected from Serbian fruit exports

This year, Serbia could generate a foreign exchange inflow of about $650 million from fruit exports, despite the fact that the yield will be lower by about 5% than last year. Experts from Novi Sad Agriculture University, Cathedra for fruticulture, announced  that the yield would be higher by 8%-10% than in 2019 according to the first forecasts, but that last year's droughts left bigger consequences on the fruit than expected. The drought in July, August and September 2019 damaged the fruit causing decrease in fruit yields. This year it has about 30% of fruits, especially with plums that were formed as “twins” and can only be used in processing industry. First three months of this year, Serbia exported about 56,000 tons of apples at an average price of €0.73 per kilogram. In 2019, Serbia achieved a foreign exchange inflow of about $120 million on apple exports alone. Professors from this University forecast a fruit yield of 1.2 to 1.3 million tons. Taking into account an increased healthy food trend, the world will be in demand for fresh fruits. On the other hand, due to the reduced supply, prices will be high - potentially, the highest in the last ten years.

If the Netherlands can – so can Serbia

The Co-President of the National Team for the Revival of Serbian Villages stated that agriculture accounted for slightly less than 10% of Serbia’s gross domestic product and that the Team proposed making that share significantly higher. The Team envisages agriculture as the country’s development opportunity. “If the Netherlands can make $91 billion through agriculture, then there is room for increasing Serbia’s €5 billion because, among other things, Serbia has over 200,000 hectares of state-owned land that has not been leased,” explained the Co-president . According to him, Serbian villages have been neglected for decades, and efforts are now being made to have the public see: “no villages - no Serbia”. Efforts that this Team is putting in development of rural areas are to turn Serbian villages into communities that people see as a livelihood opportunity, including employment, health protection, education, and culture. The precondition for reviving rural areas is good infrastructure - construction of local access and country roads connecting houses and fields.

The Western Balkans need assistance from the EU for energy transition

At the conference “Green Economy of the Region” held in Belgrade, Mr. Janez Kopac, the Energy Community Secretariat Director recommended  gradual taxation of carbon dioxide emissions, and the use of the subsequent income for energy efficacy measures and the encouragement of renewable energy sources, as well as, just an energy transition. If that mechanism develops, the EU will assist in improving it through additional development aid, because the differences between the Western Balkans and the EU will grow increasingly bigger. Mr Kopac said the first country to embark on the path of official decarbonization was North Macedonia. Montenegro has imposed high taxes on carbon dioxide emissions and set a transitional period of five years, which is not seen as realistic. Serbia has invested in wind farms, adding new capacities from renewable energy sources. Every country has its challenges, but a regional approach is needed and the EU’s support because otherwise, that transition will be unsuccessful for the Western Balkans and the EU.

New building for research and development institute in IT in biosystems  

The Research and Development Institute for Information Technologies in Biosystems, also known as the BioSense, cross-fertilizes the two most promising sectors in Serbia: ICT and agriculture. It recognizes that today, ICT plays a essential role in ensuring sustainable, smart and inclusive growth of agriculture. Their first significant step was the Antares project, a joint research project with Wageningen University. The research  was financed through the Horizon 2020 program, which t recognized BioSense as the first centre of excellence outside of the EU.  (Website here.)

The Institute will get a new building and the construction works will start in October 2020. The office for managing public investments, in cooperation with the European Delegation in Serbia has issued an international call for bids for the construction. For this project, Serbia has received a loan from the European Investment Bank (EIB) in the amount of €11 million. The financing contract, signed three years ago, also stipulates that the state will invest €3 million. Out of the total amount, €4.5 million will go into the actual construction, while €9.5 million  will be spent on new, modern scientific equipment. 

Photo credit: "Apples" by Mike Mozart via Flickr.