Serbia Newsflash Week 39

Cattle subsidy, EU rural development news, border checkpoint streamlining, biomass energy - The week in Serbian agriculture

Young people laughing in the middle of a field.
Beeld: ©Lionel Goupil
The new DFC office in Belgrade will support, among other projects, young farmers' SMEs.

African Swine Fever in Serbia

The appearance of African Swine Fever (ASF) has been confirmed in ten countries in Europe. Neighboring countries of Serbia, including Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary, are dealing with recently identified or long-ongoing outbreaks of ASF (source OIE), so it was to be expected that ASF would be detected in Serbia as well. Last Friday, four positive cases have been confirmed in animals at three backyard farms in the village of Aleksandrvac in Eastern Serbia. There are no large-sized or commercial pig farms in the area. The State Veterinary authorities have declared the village to be an infected area within a radius of 3 km, and proclaimed the surrounding territory an endangered area within a radius of 10 km. All measures are being taken in order to prevent the spreading of the disease. (More available here in Serbian) This recent outbreak of ASF will put more pressure on the already struggling Serbian pig sector.  Read more about the challenges in Serbian pig sector in Serbia in our article over here.

New DFC office opened in Belgrade

As a follow up to the Washington agreement signed at the beginning of September, the US International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) opened a regional office in Belgrade.  The Serbian Prime Minister and Executive Director of the DFC signed a joint statement, thus officially opening the DFC’s regional office in Belgrade. DFC will be supporting sectors like construction, transport and infrastructure abut also plans to introduce a credit line for SMEs. According to the Serbian Minister of Agriculture, this office will be supporting start-up companies of young farmers as well as women in agriculture and the food processing industry. The Minister said that projects to be submitted to DFC for the evaluation are ready and that this will be a boost to further development of agro sector in the country and the region.

Region could save up to €800 million annually with joint border checkpoints 

Officials from Regional Cooperation Council - RCC, CEFTA and the customs services of Serbia and North Macedonia as well as the Transport Union visited the Presevo-Tabanovci border crossing between Serbia and North Macedonia to see the effects of joint customs control, which is Serbia’s only integrated border crossing. “If we had more joint border checkpoints and if they worked 24/7, with simplified phytosanitary and customs procedures, we could save EUR 800 million annually as a region”, said the Secretary-General of the RCC at the press conference held at the border checkpoint between Serbia and North Macedonia. The RCC launched the establishment of Green Corridors (more on this in our March article) during the blockage caused by the pandemic together with the Secretariat of the Transportation Community, CEFTA, European Commission and the governments of the six economies of the Western Balkans, whereby an unobstructed flow of goods and medicines in the region was secured. The starting point was a daily flow of two thousand trucks, which waited for up to 20 hours at checkpoints while at the moment a daily 13 thousand trucks pass through with  wait times no higher than two hours.

Serbia’s first products with PGI label

Fruska Gora linden honey, Pirot cheese, and Arilje raspberries are Serbia’s first products to compete for the EU’s Protected Geographical Indication label (PGI). The Serbian Ministry of Agriculture expects these to be the first Serbian products with the EU label on the Union’s market in late 2021. In the meantime, Serbia will work on developing specifications for Futog cabbage, Leskovac ajvar, and Srem kulen. The Ministry has prepared a new act on quality schemes for agri-food products providing the legal basis for obtaining the European quality label. Once those regulations are adopted, specifications for Fruska Gora linden honey, Arilje raspberry, and Pirot cheese can be submitted to the European Commission officially. There are some 3 thousand products protected at the EU level.

Close-up picture of agricultural waste
Beeld: ©PublicDomainPictures
The biomass heating plant in Arilje will have an output of around 2 MW and will initially power two schools, a health center, a court building and a kindergarten.

Low depletion of IPARD funds 

Out of the €175 million allocated from the EU pre-accession assistance for the rural development (IPARD) for the period 2014 - 2020, only €7.5 million have been spent and there is a serious risk that part of the money will not be disbursed, but will have to be returned to the EU. This was said during the online debate "Agriculture and Investment in Serbia" organised by the European Movement in Serbia in cooperation with the EU Delegation to Serbia. The Head of the Managing Authority of the IPARD Operating Structure stated that calls for €130 million have been announced so far. In December 2018, not a single euro was disbursed, in May last year, about €300 thousand were paid, and in August this year, the figure was €7.5 million. 

Subsidies of €170 per head of cattle sold

At yesterday’s session, the Serbian government adopted amendments to a decree that refers to the wholesale purchase of store cattle in the conditions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Agricultural producers will receive a subsidy of €170 per head of store cattle sold between September 5 and October 30, which is what cattle farming associations had requested because of a sharp drop in the cattle price from €2.0 to €1.20, live-weight. The government also announced that it had adopted amendments to decrees referring to the allocation of IPARD incentives. It means that beneficiaries will be able to become eligible for receiving payments this year and the next two years. The money will be used for programs for improving competitiveness, investment in new perennial plants, and improving primary agricultural production in the meat, milk, and beer industry through equipment purchases. The money will also be used for investment in agricultural product processing and marketing of agricultural and food products, as well as products in the fishing industry.

Construction of biomass heating plant begins in Arilje 

The construction of the woodchip and berry waste-fuelled heating plant in Arilje, which was supposed to start mid-June, will commence this week, announced the deputy president of the Municipality of Arilje. (See our coverage of this in our May 22 Newsflash.) Around 30% of the waste will come from strawberry and blackberry production, and the rest will come from forest materials from state-owned forest company “Srbijasume”. The Deputy Major specified that the preparatory works on the construction of the heating plant were being finalized and, as planned, the plant will be completed by December 31, provided the weather conditions allow for it. “The initial starting date had to be moved because we had to wait for an assessment of the environmental impact of the construction of this heating plant,” the official said. According to him the biomass-based heating plant is designed for slightly under 2 MW and, initially, two schools, a Health Centre, a court building and a kindergarten will be connected to it.

Photo credit:
"Farmer" by Aleksandar Andjelkovic from Pixabay
Image by PublicDomainPictures via Pixabay