Serbia: The challenges that the poultry sector faces

At the Poultry Business Forum, with the participation of Dutch professionals and companies, poultry farmers addressed the issues that their industry faces domestically and on the global market

Gert-Jan Oplaat, President of NEPLUVI presenting at the Poultry Business Forum.
Beeld: ©Mila Mirkovic
Gert-Jan Oplaat, President of NEPLUVI presenting at the Poultry Business Forum.

The poultry sector was well developed in the former Yugoslavia. Big poultry farms, incubators, slaughterhouses had been built by the state and genetics came from the best European centers. Export was also organized by the state through bartering arrangements (commodity exchange). Parallel to operations on the big state farms, backyard farming also took place from small incubators to raising broiler chickens or laying hens. After the downfall of the Yugoslav state and its overarching big systems, small scale farmers took over.

In the 25 years after this transition, the small scale farms grew and nowadays these farmers are the only poultry producers in Serbia. They have established new business relations with EU partners.  Existing facilities for broiler production have been used and new slaughterhouses have been built. Their capacities now surpass the need of the local market thus they are exporting to the surrounding countries. In order to utilize free trade agreements Serbia has with Russian Federation, Turkey and other countries, capacities need to increase in order to be sufficient.

There are 350m thousand farms involved in animal husbandry including poultry breeding. Even though majority of these farms are not specialized in poultry per se, poultry production is increasing in Serbia. For the first time ever consumption of poultry meat (18 kg/capita) surpassed consumption of pig meat (16.7 kg/capita) in Serbia. In 2020 production of poultry meat amounted to 115 thousand tons. In the first six months of 2021 import of poultry meat equaled to 7 mn EUR and export was €5.3 million.

Today, the poultry sector in Serbia can be divided into three parts: heavy lines; light lines and the slaughter industry.

  • The heavy line consists of approximately 350 thousand parent stock that produce 70 million one day old chicks for broiler production. 90% of parent stock is ROSS bread and the rest is COBB.
  • The light line (production of eggs for consumption) consists of parent stock farms (60 thousand chicks). These are mostly from ISA Brown; Novogen and Lohman.  As for laying hens, there are approximately 5 million chicks in Serbia.
  • The slaughter industry consist of numerous small scale slaughterhouses. The biggest has capacity of 20-25 thousand slaughters/day.
Chickens at a poultry farm in Serbia
Beeld: ©Mila Mirkovic
Chickens at a poultry farm in Serbia

The main challenge of the poultry sector is to extend its market. There are no export opportunities to the EU market due lack of approved procedures and standards for poultry products. The market is limited to CEFTA countries. FTAs Serbia has with Euro-Asia and Turkey are not utilized since the production capacities are not meeting demands of such big markets.

Production challenges lay in improving energy efficiency and improving the feed conversion ratio (especially with the increase in prices for feed ingredients like maize, soya etc). Also, the market is segmented and there is no relevant sector organization.

The Poultry Business Forum is the gathering of professionals and relevant stakeholders, held this year for the fifth time. It is an attempt by Serbian poultry farmers to reorganize the sector according to the needs of the market by setting up a professional branch organization; by introducing the latest technologies and trends; and by presenting the rules and regulations that need to be followed.

At the event, Gert-Jan Oplaat, President of NEPLUVI (Dutch association of Poultry processors), gave a presentation about the the way the Dutch poultry sector is organized and how all stakeholders benefit from a well-organized branch association. The cooperation  between the Dutch and Serbian poultry professionals is good. Every year there are several Dutch companies present. This year besides NEPLUVI, there were representatives of De Heus (animal feed), Royal Pas Reform (hatchery solutions), Selko (feed) and Agro Innovium.


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Before you go - The Budapest-Belgrade team brings you curated newsflashes every Friday afternoon. These are quick, digestible, to-the-point briefings about all the latest developments in the Serbian and Hungarian agro sectors.

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