Serbia Newsflash Week 6

International trade news, subsidy announcements, organic farming, pig sector news, horticulture challenges and the victorious pressed sausage - The week in Serbian agriculture

Berries in boxes
©Couleur
Organic production is on the rise in Serbia - In 2019, nearly 6300 producers chose organic farming. However, there is still a long way to go for Serbia's fledgling organic farming sector just to satisfy domestic market demand.

Serbia saw record-high agricultural exports in 2020 

In 2020, Serbia exported agri-food products worth $4.14 billion, with a record-breaking export growth rate of 14.4%, according to a recent analysis by agricultural analyst Vojislav Stankovic published on the portal Agrosmart. The analysis shows that Serbia also imported $2.3 billion worth of such products, with a growth rate of 8.8%. The surplus in foreign trade was $1.84 billion, up by 20.5% or $312.7 billion compared to 2019. The export-import ratio was 180%. Stankovic says the excellent performance is mostly a result of successful agricultural production, with a gross value of $5.8 billion (a growth rate of 4.61%), while the net value was $4.8 billion (up by 5.11%). According to the analyst, one of the most significant agricultural products exported in 2020 was maize (exports were worth $621 million), followed by frozen raspberries ($296 million). As for Serbian imports, tobacco was dominant ($79 million), followed by bananas ($62 million) and frozen pork ($58 million).

State support to the agro coops secured for 2021

A new program supporting agricultural cooperatives in 2021 has been adopted, with €4.3 million has been set aside, announced the Minister of Rural Welfare. He stated that the existing cooperatives could expect support worth up to €128 thousand and new cooperatives up to €64 thousand. At a February 4 session, the Serbian government adopted a program for supporting agricultural cooperatives through grants for improving their operations and technological development across the country. It is said to be the first in a series of programs implemented by the Rural Welfare Ministry to improve living and working conditions in rural areas. Between July 2017 (when a campaign titled 500 Cooperatives in 500 Villages was launched) and late 2020, around 800 new farmers’ coops were established. Throughout the three years, around €13 million worth of grants were invested in developing agricultural cooperatives. The state support provided to the ago cooperatives is complementary to the activities implemented by the Agriculture Department of the Embassy. It will be a strong support to the currently running PIB project in the soft fruit sector.

BREXIT affects Serbian agro trade

The United Kingdom left the EU on December 31st 2020. Since that day, the bilateral agreement between the EU and Serbia no longer regulates the bilateral trade between the UK and Serbia. Since a new bilateral agreement has not been signed, as a consequence, tariffs of up to 20% have been reintroduced on Serbian products that are being exported to the British market. More about this here.

Poor planting material results in a raspberry yield drop  

Serbian raspberry producers have benefited from the great demand for raspberries in the global market during the pandemic, but there will not be enough raspberries to even cover the previously made deals, stated Mr Radovic, the President of the Association of Raspberry and Blackberry Growers of Serbia. He pointed out that the reason lies in the fact that the raspberry yield has declined by 60% over the past few years. The reason for the decline he sees in the use of uncertified raspberry seedlings by farmers due to their financial difficulties. “Over the past few years, raspberry production in Serbia has dropped from 20 tons per hectare to 3.5-4 tons per hectare. The main reason is climate change and poor planting material,” he explained. He added that experts from the Agriculture Advisory Service and the Agriculture Ministry’s task force had carried out an analysis in 2018-2020, analyzing raspberry fields. They concluded that planting material was the biggest problem. “Thanks to the Agriculture Ministry, recently, farmers receive funds covering 90% of costs for planting material. Also subsidies for the material necessary for building a raspberry farm and irrigation systems have been increased,” Radovic noted. He also underscored that it would take several years to have the first yield coming from high-quality seedlings. The activities of the PIB project: The Dutch solutions for the Serbian soft fruit Sector, implemented by the consortium of the Dutch companies will contribute to the solution of this problem. More about this here.

Close-up of corn cobs.
©Cornell Frühauf
A new analysis shows that Serbia's total agri-food production in 2020 was worth $4.14 billion. The most significant agro export product was maize, with aggregate total export reaching $621 million.

Organic production on the rise

In 2019, nearly 6.300 producers engaged in organic production, with over 21 thousand hectares used for plant production. It is a rise of approximately 2.000 ha compared to 2018, according to the analysis Organic Production in Serbia, published by Serbia Organica. The area under organic farming rose for a fourth consecutive year. Organic plant production accounted for 0.61% of the agricultural land used in Serbia. Three quarters of the used land was arable, while meadows and pastures accounted for the rest. Moreover, 57% of the land was used for organic crop production and 33.5% for fruit production, while vegetable production was the least common – 1.15%. In Vojvodina and the Southern and Eastern Serbia Region, around 40% of production referred to organic plant production, while the percentage in Sumadija and Western Serbia was 20.2%. Organic livestock production reported a rise, primarily beekeeping (+225%), with the number of honey bee societies growing from 3,000 to nearly 10,000, while poultry farming rose by 165%. Out of 6,261 producers, 534 were certified organic producers and 5,727 cooperating producers. Even though the organic production in Serbia is on rise, there is room for further growth just to meet only the requirements of the domestic market.

Pork producers ask for additional support  

Serbian pork producers have asked the Ministry of Agriculture to provide additional subsidies of €17 per animal. As the President of the Association of Cattle Breeders from Srem and Macva Districts recalled, the subsidies are currently worth €8.5 per head of cattle. The additional subsidies should be limited to 1.000 pigs per owner. He explained that pork prices had dropped due to the pandemic and lack of control in terms of pork imports, whereas feedstuff prices had gone up, resulting in losses of over 20% compared to the money invested. “Pork prices have been going down since June last year, and purchasers now offer 0.9 per kg liveweight. Before the prices of maize, wheat, and other animal feed increased, it was 1.36-1.44 per kg, bringing barely a minimum income,” the President of Association explained. He said that his association and the Association of Agricultural Producers of Serbia (SPAS), headquartered in Kraljevo, asked relevant ministry to introduce levies on the import of fresh meat and meat products to protect domestic pig production, as well as to limit the import of frozen meat and meat products through quotas. They also asked for reduction of VAT on animal fee to 10%. After the discussion between the meat processors and the Minister of Agriculture it was decided that Veterinary Directorate will inforce health checks of all meet products imported to the Serbian market and will make sure they meet the highest food hygiene standards.

The first milk vending machine in Serbia

Milovan Nincic, a farmer from the village of Branesci (central Serbia), has decided to implement a new way of selling milk, which should help his farm to charge for the hard work. In the center of Cajetina, he installed a milk vending machine, the first such machine in Serbia. It is an automatic device offering fresh and homemade whole milk 24/7. It is sold in one-liter glass bottles, and the price is €0.68 per liter. The machine was installed on February 4, and so far, the results are good, the farmer said. According to him, 100 liters (the capacity of the machine) get sold very quickly. “After milking the cows, the milk goes into a cooler. Then, I put it in a stainless steel barrel, and early in the morning or in the evening, I put it in the machine. The space inside the machine is sterilized, after which the system resets, and the sale can start again,” he explained. The component used for pouring milk is automatically sterilized, and protective sensors are used to monitor the entire process, preventing the milk from spoiling. It is kept at a temperature of 1-4 degrees Celsius. Customers can buy one or two liters, paying a container deposit upon the first purchase.

Traditional “Pressed Sausage” from Pirot among Exotic Specialties to be Exported to Turkey 

The winner of the “Pirot Pressed Sausage Fair”, Ninoslav Stojadinovic, a producer of traditional pressed sausages, has been invited, among 17 producers from the world, to present his product for the purpose of potential export to Turkey. The Zoom presentation of products for potential export to the Turkish market was organized by the Association of Producers of Meat Products from touristic areas of Izmir, Manisa and Turgutlu, under the sponsorship of the Directorate for Food and Control of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry of Turkey. From Serbian producers, only this year’s winner of the “Pressed Sausage Fair” was invited. He has confirmed his participation in the presentation. He will send a sample of his product to Turkey for a chemical analysis of the product as well as its composition. Also an organoleptic assessments are to be done. The rating commission will feature seven Turkish gastronomy specialists and experts when it comes to meat products.