Serbia Newsflash Week 25

Dry ports in Belgrade, agro investments, food processing plant openings - The last week in Serbian agriculture

Boxes of red raspberries.
©Mila Mirkovic
“Created in Serbia” - New trademark launched to promote Serbian products worldwide.

Garden in the heart of Belgrade

The 25th International Fair of Horticulture took place in Belgrade between June 17-20. Horticulture and Nature Gifts is a specific event, including exhibitors from various branches and it is a connection between healthy living, the natural environment and the sustainable use of natural resources. This year, due to the Covid-19 pandemic there were fewer exhibitors than in previous years but around 80 companies, mostly Serbian, participated at this event. Foreign companies took part through their local representatives. German, Italian, Slovenian, Dutch and Swedish companies were present in this way. The Fair was opened by the State Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture who underlined that this kind of manifestation is a good indicator for the further development of the horty sector in Serbia. At the moment there are around 500ha under nursery plants and around 200ha of flower production in protected area.

Unique trademark of domestic products

A new project of the Chamber of Commerce of Serbia called “Created in Serbia” was launched on June 16th as a means to aid and promote the Serbian economy. The president of the Chamber said that it wasn't a simple campaign promoting local products, but a whole new philosophy. A collective trademark called “housekeeper” had been created. The idea is not only to show that a product was made in Serbia, but also how it was produced, of what quality it is and how much local knowledge, raw materials and work was invested in it. When a customer sees this trademark on a product, they will be aware that more than 80% of work and value from Serbia was invested in that product. The intention of the campaign is to raise consumers’ awareness of the significance of buying local products in order to make Serbia a better place for life and work

Facility for collection and sales of locally produced honey opened in Raca

As previously mentioned in our article last week,, a plant for the collection and sales of honey founded by members of the Serbian Beekeeping Society (SPOS) called “Nas Med” (“our honey”) was opened in Raca yon June 17th. More than €1.5 million has so far been invested in the construction and equipping of the plant. This will allow SPOS members to sell their products more easily, without an intermediary. The plant is 1,600 m2  in floor size and has the capacity to receive and package around 3 thousand tons of honey a year. The plant will package conventional honey, as well as honey with SPOS “Good Beekeeping Practice” quality standards as an exclusive product in specially protected packaging. Another €350,000 or so is necessary for additional equipment, and that investment will be realized in 2021. The SPOS, which has been around in different forms for the last 123 years, brings together 237 municipal beekeeping associations with nearly 8,5 thousand members. In Serbia, there are over 1.3 million registered hives, and the annual production of honey ranges between 6 thousand and 11 thousand tons. Every year, 3 thousand tons are exported to the EU, and revenues arising from honey exports amount to cca €10 million.

Wood processing plant operational again after two decades

Serbian Minister of Forestry, Water Management, and Agriculture Branislav Nedimovic opened the Srpska Crnja-based wood processing factory “Lipa” (Linden), which had been closed for twenty years.

“The World Bank was right when it suggested the main three economic sectors Serbia should rely on are the food, wood-processing, and metal industries”.

According to him, the opening of the factory in one of the smallest municipalities in Vojvodina and in Serbia, represents a revival of one small village and directive for development of rural areas in the future. Wood processing activities at this location in Vojvodina first launched with the opening of a carpenter’s workshop back in 1948. The new owner is continuing that the revived company will be a true heirs of a long history that started by carpenter’s workshop employees in 1948.

The main food processor in Pozega is operational again

The ITN Group relaunched the production of the biggest food processor in central Serbia on June 12th. “Budimka” was sold last November through an auction for €1.85 million to the ITN Group. The new owner engages in innovations in agriculture and in the production of frozen fruits and vegetables. They have invested over €5 millionn in the restoration of production activities and hired some 50 workers. The plan is to invest another €7 million and will employ over 100 people over the next two years. The new owner said at the opening ceremony that “Budimka” is a brand of strategic importance for the region and the whole country and that for ITN Group they regrade it as a new business challenge. It is the third largest exporter of food products from Serbia. Last year, it  exported almost 10 thousand tons of the final product

In the past few months, the ITN Group has reconstructed 5 thousand square meters of production plants, built new infrastructure, water supply and a gas boiler room. By June 20, the reconstructed factory will be put into operation for processing and buying raspberries, blackberries, cherries, etc. “Budimka” was the biggest food processor in western Serbia for decades. It was a processor majority of south-western Serbian fruit growers depended on. It was privatized in 2008, but the contract was terminated after two years. The production was suspended in 2015, and the company went bankrupt the following year.

Close-up photo of a jar of honey
©Clarice Barbato-Dunn
Serbia produces between 6-13 thousand tons if honey annually and exports 3 thousand tons of it to the EU.

MK Group becomes majority owner of Victoria Group with a 67% stake

MK Group, one of the biggest agricultural companies in Serbia and a major arable land owner, has finalised the acquisition of 67% of the shares of Victoria Group, one of the largest soya and sunflower companies in Serbia. With the integration of Victoria Group's member-companies Sojaprotein, Victoria Oil, Victoria Logistic, Luka Backa Palanka and VZS Stocna Hrana, MK Group has acquired the status of majority owner, whereas shareholders Milija Babovic and the company Apsara Limited remain minority owners. Victoria Group’s soy and sunflower products are exported to over 60 countries of the world. MK Group promised to remain a reliable partner to Serbian agriculturists, ready to invest the knowledge and the resources in order to secure the selling of domestic products on world markets. The new owner sees this integration as a benefit to the employees and the agricultural sector in Serbia and beyond.

Online conference "How to best use EU assistance "

The EU Delegation to Serbia, in co-operation with the Centre for European Policy have organized the online conference "How to best use EU assistance?" The conference's main topic of discussion was about the economic measures and the response to the pandemic in Serbia. The President of the Serbian Chamber of Commerce (PKS), Marko Cadez, said that after the successful implementation of the first measures to mitigate the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic, the state should prepare new measures to help the economy in the autumn. Until September and the new convocation of the assembly is constituted, it is difficult to expect bigger or substantially new measures. Until then, all sectors should use the time to prepare. The Serbian Chamber of Commerce is looking at drafts of various EU laws, from Slovenia and Austria. He informed the audience that whatever the second wave is, the closure of the economy would no longer be possible. People have realised what the closure of the economy has caused. Everyone hopes that the second wave will not be so intense.

Sem Fabrizi, the Head of the EU Delegation to Serbia, said that the combination of reforms on the road to the EU, the continuity of European financial support and the benefits of the economic recovery of the EU countries will introduce the Serbian economy to the future. "The positive effects of the recovery will be fully exploited if reforms on the path to the EU continue through strengthening the rule of law, reducing the high share of the grey economy and providing a modern and transparent economic administration," Fabrizi said. He also reminded that within the plan “Next Generation EU”, additional support to the Western Balkans was proposed through IPA funds and guarantees.

The head of the Regional Office of the European Investment Bank (EIB), Dubravka Negre, said that the EIB had earmarked €1.7 billion for the Western Balkans region to address the most urgent consequences of the healthcare pandemic and economic recovery, especially for SMEs. The bank is also working on projects worth €2.3 billion that will cover all spheres of the economy.

“Dry ports” as Serbia's opportunity to become part of the largest logistics chains

The geographic position of Serbia enables ideal conditions for the development of the concept of dry ports, as it is close to all the big Adriatic and Black Sea ports, and the locations in the country planned for the development of this concept allow for an unlimited expansion of terminals, which is of special importance when it comes to the transport of containers. The “dry ports” option in Serbia has also been made possible by the “Belt and Road” initiative and the construction of the Belgrade-Budapest high-speed railway. The Port of Thessaloniki became involved in the construction of land container terminals, so-called “dry ports”, in late 2019. After the initial talks, representatives of the Port of Thessaloniki visited a location in Belgrade-Makis, and the potentials of a new port in Belgrade and the intermodal terminal in Belgrade-Batajnica were presented as well.

The Port of Thessaloniki is only one of the ports considered in planning the development of ports and land terminals. For Serbia, the ports of Piraeus, Constanta, Rijeka, Kopar and Drac are also of great importance. All these ports are very important for the import, but primarily for Serbia's export and the operations of river ports. In other words, land terminal must follow the development of these maritime ports so as to enable the domestic economy to efficiently sell its products in foreign markets.

Photo credit: DIMG_2771 Honey for toast by Clarice Barbatounn via Flickr.