Serbia Newsflash Week 51

Dutch-Serbian cooperation, online fairs, international trade news, vet training, berry business updates, new budget - The week in Serbian agriculture

Dear reader,

Due to winter vacations, the next Serbia Newsflash will be published in January.

A bowl of fruit
Beeld: ©Sosinda
The Serbian Raspberry and Blackberry Growers association is appealing to traders to share some of their extra profit with berry growers in order to maintain berry production in Serbia. In the past five years, the land area used in raspberry production shrunk from 6 thousand to 4 thousand hectares.

Green Cities Serbia – a new Dutch-Serbian cooperation project

It’s official! A cooperation agreement for the project “Serbia Green Cities” was signed on December 15th 2020. The Dutch Government and the Embassy officials, as well as the cluster of Dutch companies, attended the virtual ceremony to initiate this “Partners for International Business” (PIB) project. Trees and plants are an important for combating CO2 emissions. In addition, trees and plants also have positive advantages in ensuring water storage, purifying air, cooling, biodiversity and social interaction. Belgrade is known for its many tints of grey. With this project the Dutch consortium will add more green to the color pallet of the city. Judging by the smile on everyone’s face, we are all excited to kick it off!

Agriculture Fair in Novi Sad went digital for the first time in its 87 years long tradition 

The International Agriculture Fair in Novi Sad gathered over 130 producers from eight countries on its online platform. 20 thousand visitors were registered on the opening day and it is expected that the number will grow further during all days of the conference. GM of the Fair shared the impression that it was a good move to organize the online agro expo and to keep in the touch with all the clients under these tumultuous circumstances. The Serbian Prime Minister (PM) opened the digital exhibition by stressing the importance of agriculture and food industry for the country’s food security.  “The Government will continue to invest, and agriculture is one of the most important components of our “Serbia 2025 development plan”, under which we will continue to strengthen and further develop both agriculture and the food industry,” stated the PM in an online speech. The Netherlands was present with the digital “Orange Pavilion” with twelve companies and PIB project the Dutch solutions for the Serbian soft fruit sector.

CEFTA Week Conference 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic brought uncertainty and economic turndown for economies in the CEFTA region, but opened up new opportunities also. The Green Corridors along with Green Lane initiative were an important step in combatting COVID-19 consequences and contributed to trade growth. The initiative of “green Corridors” was the first joint activity of the custom services of CEFTA and it became operational only in one month (March-April 2020), see more about that here. Recently steps were made for further economic integration, growth and economic recovery of the CEFTA Parties. Today, challenges and opportunities that lie ahead are discussed during a CEFTA conference, read more about CEFTA and the conference here.

Annual Agriculture Advisory Conference

An online annual conference of the Agriculture Advisory/Extension Service took place between December 15 and 17. Due to COVID-19 this year’s agro advisors from the country and from abroad could not meet in person but in a digital format. The conference’s main focus is on the use of the new technologies in precision agriculture. It is probably the adequate topic for the ending for this challenging year. The Dutch input was focused on the berry fruit sector. A recorded technical lecture of the Dutch strawberry expert Mr Klaas Plas shared the Dutch extensive knowledge and experiences in improving farmer’s income in strawberry production: extending the growing season; covered production; selection of adequate berry planting material etc. In a virtual presentation of the PIB Soft Fruit project, Mr Djordje Petrovic, the Liaison Officer explained the essence of the project and the “demonstration field” in Arilje,  Western Serbia. Hopefully, next year we will be able to get together in mountain Zlatibor to exchange our knowledge and experiences.

Regional veterinary training

The Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Skopje organized a technical training for the veterinary and dairy professionals in the North Macedonia on December 17. Due to COVID-19 pandemic this training was organized online. The “new normal” and the 2020 main trend of switching to digital meetings allowed us to broadcast the session in the whole region, thus professionals from Serbia and Montenegro had joined the session. Experts from “Bles Dairies” shared their knowledge about dairy farms signals, milk quality and hoof health/hygiene with colleagues from the region as they did in previous years but just in person. Acknowledgments to our colleague Emina Shkrijelj, Wytze Heida and the Bles Dairies for this great initiative.

2021 budget adopted

The Serbian Parliament adopted the Law on the 2021 budget and a set of accompanying laws. Finance Minister said the budget was planned based on the forecast of growth of the gross domestic product (GDP) of 6% next year. Budget revenues are planned for €11.4 million which is an increase of 3.5% concerning the budget rebalance from 2020, while expenditures are €12.9 million and 15% lower concerning the rebalance. The budget deficit will amount to €151.9, which is 3% of the GDP. The Minister said that the capital investments "are planned for €2.9 million, which is 5.5% of the GDP." Ministry of Agriculture will receive €450 million, which almost 5% of the overall national budget for 2021.

Beeld: ©.
Serbia's flour and wheat export potential is estimated to be one million tons. In 2020, around 260 thousand tons of wheat and 50 thousand tons of flour were exported, leaving 900 thousand tons of wheat and 100 thousand tons of flour in storage which traders still need to sell.

State aid for development of cooperatives continues  

The Minister in charge for village revitalization and the rural development announced that the Serbian Government will continue to support cooperatives in Serbia next year as it did in previous years. The Minister stated that in 2021 state will provide help to 50-60 cooperatives, primarily agricultural ones, and that tourist and social cooperatives would receive assistance for the first time. "In the first quarter of next year, cooperatives in Serbia can expect assistance. The concept will not change significantly, the Minister told reporters ahead of a meeting with representatives of cooperative unions and experts on further development of cooperatives in Serbia. He specified that the money wouldn’t be intended for settling old obligations or debts of cooperatives, but only for the purchase of equipment, raising perennial plantations, the purchase of basic herds of livestock, "everything that helps them to be technologically equipped". "The amount of funds for newly formed cooperatives will continue to be around €63.9 thousand, and €127.7 for existing cooperatives. This time, the program will be expanded to include tourist and social cooperatives," Minister said.

Abolishment of the flour stamps requested  

The Zitounija Business Association has proposed that Serbia should launch an initiative with the governments of North Macedonia (NM) and Bosnia & Herzegovina (BH) to abolish the regulations according to which flour for human consumption needs so-called registration stamps since that is a non-tariff barrier, and malpractice is common, reports daily Politika. It is noted that Serbia’s average annual flour exports to North Macedonia amount to some 45 thousand tons, and that NM country is Serbia’s biggest buyer of flour. “Although an agreement was reached with the Macedonian government back in 2018 to abolish these stamps, it has not been done,” Zitonija says, adding that when it comes to BH (which imports around 40 thousand tons of flour from Serbia every year), Serbian exporters also have to use the stamps. Moreover, the problem is the fact that the dimensions of those stamps and their paper quality are not suitable for automatic stamp applicators, so they have to be applied by hand. That means hiring additional workers and bearing notable, unnecessary costs. It is also highlighted that Serbia abolished regulations regarding flour stamps on December 31, 2018, in line with the EU regulations, which do not recognize these stamps as a form of market control.

Around million tons of flour and wheat and 3.2 million tons of corn export 

Serbia has around a million tons of wheat and flour and 3.2 million tons of corn for export, said a representative of the Serbian Grain Association Zita Srbije. It was stated for the media that, in 2020, around 260 thousand tons of wheat and 50 thousand tons of flour had been exported. Another 900 thousand tons of wheat and approximately 100 thousand tons of flour are needed to be exported in order for traders to get rid of the surplus quantities. “Local traders of wheat are waiting to sell, so that the prices of wheat in the local and the foreign market would equalise, because the price at the world market is lower than in the local one,” explained the representative of the Association, Mr Savkovic. A more intensive trade with wheat will start, as he said, on January 10, and it will be sold, regardless of the fact that their owners might not be satisfied with the price, because they will need to get rid of the surplus quantities and empty the storage capacities for the next harvest, he explained. 

Raspberry and blackberry growers appeal for share in profit with traders  

Last week the President of the Serbian Raspberry and Blackberry Growers association, stated that the Association is appealing to traders to share a part of the extra profit with growers, because the fruit is exported at a price at least 70% higher than the purchasing price. "A kilogram of raspberry was sold to traders for less than EUR 2 this summer,  and now due to increased demand and lower production in Poland and Chile, they export it at the price of €5 per kg," explained the President of the Association. He added that he did not even harvested part of his raspberry orchard because the price was too low (€0.17 - €0.5/kg), and now 1 kg is worth €1.02 -1.27/kg. Therefore, for growers to be satisfied, traders should share at least €0.17/kg from the extra profit. This extra would, as he explained, motivate growers to plant more, instead of destroying their plantations. Raspberries have been selling cheap for five years in a row, which is why plantations decreased from about 6 thousand hectares to 4.000 according to him.

Serbia imported 16 thousand tons of pork from the EU in the first 9 months of this year

“The sales price of fattening pigs on Serbian farms ranges from €1.19 to €1.36 /kg and producers have to deal with a high price of maize, which participates up to 70% in the formation of the price of live cattle. Also, farmers are facing low purchasing price and large imports from the EU” said the Secretary of the Association for Livestock and Livestock Processed Products of the Chamber of Commerce of Serbia. “16 thousand tons of pork, worth €44 million, were imported and placed on the Serbian market from the EU in the previous nine months,” He explained that the reason for low priced pork meat on the EU market is China’s ban on the iMPOT OF pork due to the African swine fever pandemic and epidemic in Europe, so there were large market surpluses created in the EU. We don’t have accurate data yet on how much meat consumption has declined, due to closed HoReCa sector and cancelation of various festivities due to the pandemic.