The use of IPARD funds, higher national subsidies and investments in the processing sector are creating ever better conditions for the development of the Serbian agriculture and food industry

Utilising funds from the IPARD programme, increased national subsidies, investments in livestock farming and the processing sector – thee are just the preconditions for improving competitiveness and creating added value of products, on the one hand, and the opening up of new markets and export opportunities, on the other. Agriculture Minister Nedimović also announces the continuation of investments in irrigation and anti-hail protection, while a new platform with geospatial dana has been introduced with the aim of improving the management of agricultural land.

Resources from EU pre-accession funds for rural development – the IPARD programme, were finally paid into the accounts of the first beneficiaries in Serbia during March. How many public calls have so far been published, within the scope of which measures, and what was the response of farmers like? To what did the highest number of requests relate?

– To date, five public calls have been published and closed within the framework of both IPARD measures: three public calls under the scope of Measure 1 – Investments in the physical assets of agricultural holdings; and two public calls under the scope of Measure 3 – Investments in physical assets relating to the processing and marketing of agricultural and fishery products.

The response to these public calls was exceptional, with a total of 725 requests received. For Measure 1, which is primarily (but not exclusively) intended for individual agricultural producers, 629 requests were received, which confirms that our farmers recognised the opportunity, through IPARD, to improve production at their farms, renew mechanisation, build facilities and improve productivity and the competitiveness of their products on the market. One particularly encouraging fact is that a recently closed public call within this measure, which was intended, among other things, for investments in the construction of facilities, 151 requests were received.

The highest interest was for purchasing new tractors (as many as 393 requests), but also mechanisation and equipment for the picking, harvesting, sorting and packaging of agricultural products, while in the areas of construction, farmers showed the greatest interest in constructing storage facilities in the fruit and vegetable sector.

Within the scope of Measure 3, a total of 107 requests were submitted, which is also an excellent result, considering that this relates to high-value investments in the development of processing capacities. Almost half of all requests came from the fruit and vegetable sector, while the greatest interest was expressed in the procurement and modernisation of equipment for processing and packaging products.

We can now say that the first IPARD resources are, slowly but surely, reaching the hands of our agricultural producers and processors, i.e. the right hands.

How many IPARD funding calls will be published this year, for which total amount and for which purposes?

– Plans for this year include the publishing of four calls for IPARD, for which close to 90 million euros has been earmarked. The reallocation of funds within the budget provided an additional 3.3 million euros for investments in the physical assets of agricultural holdings for processing and marketing within the framework of the IPARD programme.

This summer we’re awaited by new public calls for both Measure 1 and Measure 3, intended for Serbian farmers and processors to procure machines and tractors, construct facilities and equip them with the necessary technological equipment.

At the end of the year, a public call is also expected to be announced within the framework of the very attractive Measure 7 – Diversification of agricultural holdings and the development of operations, which is directed towards the development of rural tourism. The measure is in the process of being accredited, but we invite all farmers to plan their investments on time and start preparing documentation in a timely manner.

One public call is also dedicated to Measure 9, which relates to technical support to institutions responsible for implementing the IPARD programme.

Branislav Nedimović,

We can now say that the first IPARD resources are, slowly but surely, reaching the hands of our agricultural producers and processors, i.e. the right hands

Funds intended for the Ministry of Agriculture increased in 2019 by 17.4%, or 7.7 billion dinars, compared to last year’s budget. Will you continue to strongly support the livestock sector, as one of the most important branches of agriculture for which support measures are still earmarked?

– We’ve allocated money for incentive funding for fattening cattle, pigs, lambs and cattle. They’ve also been increased for fattening beef from 10,000 to 15,000 dinars per head.

The new markets of Turkey and China are open and there is ever increasing demand for beef. It is for this reason that we want to continue strongly encouraging and supporting those producers who are engaged in livestock fattening. We will continue to incentivise funding per head of livestock for the high-quality breeding of dairy and beef cows, as well as for high-quality breeding sheep, goats and sows.

Incentives for high-quality breeding sows have increased from 10,000 to 15,000 dinars per head, as well as incentives for dairy cows – from 20,000 to 30,000 dinars per head, and incentives for raising calves for fattening – from 10,000 to 20,000 dinars per head.

In addition to these support measures, it is also important for the livestock sector that grants are allocated, both in primary production and in the processing of meat and milk. The grant amounts range from 50 to 65% of the invested amount, depending on whether the beneficiaries of incentive funds are located in an area with aggravated conditions for working in agriculture. We will continue with credit support in the livestock sector, i.e. we will continue to subsidise interest rates.

The Ministry of Agriculture has launched a project for the automation of the antihail protection system. What are plans like for this year? The first automatic anti- hail defence system will be installed at the Valjevo Radar Centre. Could you give us the details?

– The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Water Management has launched a project to automate the system of anti-hail protection on the territory of the Valjevo Radar Centre, with the aim of encompassing the entire territory of Serbia with this protection system in the coming years, which will be more efficient and effective.

The plan is to upgrade 13 such radar systems and centres in Serbia by automating anti-hail protection processes, which will cost a total of 25 million euros.

Equipment has been secured for the automatic remote launching of stations at 99 locations on the territory of the Valjevo Radar Centre – the area of the Mačvan and Kolubara districts (excluding the territory of the Municipality of Ljig) and on the territory of the Municipality of Obrenovac. Alongside equipment, the project also encompasses construction works on the renovation of existing anti-hail stations, as well as equipping the radar centre with hardware and software upgrades with which oversight and action processes are managed.

Kruševac-based domestic company Trajal korporacija A.D. (JSC) was engaged on the construction of automatic anti-hail defence systems, for which the value of works and equipment amount to more than three million dinars.

Works are well underway on the construction of the system in the area of the Valjevo radar centre, while the completed first phase will enable the system for defence against hail to be activated already during this season.

The Ministry has intensified cooperation with African countries in the previous period, such as Egypt, to which Serbian wheat can now be exported after a break of 40 years. For which other agricultural products does interest in mutual exchange exist and with which countries?

– The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Water Management has established cooperation with African countries, including Tunisia, Algeria, Burundi, Kenya and Sudan, while during 2017 and 2018, cooperation was intensified with Egypt, Morocco, Liberia, Lesotho and Ghana.

I made a two-day visit to Egypt at the beginning of this year, during which I met with Egyptian Minister of Agriculture and Land Reclamation Ezzeddine Abustit and Supply and External Trade Minister Ali al-Muselhi, with whom the launch of exports of Serbian wheat to Egypt was agreed. During this visit, the two sides emphasised the importance of opening the Egyptian market up to some of Serbia’s high-quality produce, such as strawberries, raspberries and other berries, as well as seed produce. The Egyptian side also previously expressed interest in importing beef cows from Serbia.

Cooperation in the veterinary field is conducted on the basis of a memorandum signed between the two ministries. The competent authorities of the two countries harmonised international veterinary certificates for the export of one-day chicks, sheep and goats to Egypt in the previous period, as well as a health certificate for the export of washed wool. An international veterinary certificate for the export of cattle for slaughter to Egypt is in the process of being harmonised.

Cooperation in the veterinary field between the Government of Serbia and the Government of the Kingdom of Morocco has been defined by the Agreement on Cooperation in the Field of Agriculture between the relevant ministries, while the recent session of the Mixed Committee for Economic Cooperation with Morocco saw agreement reached on the intensifying of cooperation between the competent veterinary and phyto-sanitary services, in order to improve the goods exchange of agricultural and food products. With the aim of marketing fishery products from the Kingdom of Morocco in the Republic of Serbia, the competent authorities of the two countries agreed on a certificate for the import of fishery products to the Republic of Serbia.

Our delegation also visited the Republic of Liberia in the previous period, in order to agree on further cooperation steps. Alongside agricultural cooperation, the further strengthening of economic relations between the two countries was also agreed. The Agreement on Cooperation in the Field of Agriculture was signed with Liberia in 2018, along with the Protocol on Cooperation in the Field of Scientific Research Activities, Technical and Technological Innovations, Training and Expert Programmes in the Field of Agriculture.

With the aim of creating the institutional basis to improve cooperation in the field of agriculture with the Republic of Ghana and the Kingdom of Lesotho, the following bilateral agreements were signed in 2018: Memorandum on Cooperation between the Government of the Republic of Serbia and the Government of the Republic of Ghana in the Field of Agriculture and the Agreement on Cooperation in the Field of Agriculture between our ministry and the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security of the Kingdom of Lesotho.

The area of West Africa certainly represents a significant opportunity for potential Serbian investors in many areas in which we were present in the 1970s and ‘80s.

Branislav Nedimovic, Serbian Minister of Agriculture, Forestry And Water Management

The new markets of Turkey and China are open and there is ever increasing demand for beef. It is for this reason that we want to continue strongly encouraging and supporting those producers who are engaged in livestock fattening

One of the key projects in the department that you head is also irrigation. What has been done to date and which works are planned to be realised by the end of 2019?

– The aim of the project is to increase productivity and efficiency in the agricultural sector through the expansion of irrigation systems, namely: regional hydro-systems for irrigation and dual-purpose systems on the territories of Bačka and Banat, and hydro-reclamation systems on the territories of Šabac, Čačak and the Pančevo Fen.

Works encompassed by the project include the construction, reconstruction and rehabilitation of water facilities and irrigation systems, namely: the Međa dual-purpose system, Janko’s Bridge I and II, Itebej I and Rečej; the construction of CS Jegrička, CS Pesir and CS Kaloca; the irrigation system Nova Crnja-Žitište, Tisa- Palić, Kikinda-CS Mokrinska II and Mali Iđoš and hydro-reclamation systems on the territories of Šabac, Čačak and the Pančevo Fen, as well as offering services for conducting expert supervision of the execution of works on the construction, reconstruction and rehabilitation of water facilities and irrigation systems, specifically for the regional hydro-system for irrigation and dual-purpose systems on the territories of Bačka and Banat, and the hydro-reclamation system on the territories of Šabac, Čačak and the Pančevo Fen.

The construction of the contracted facilities on the territories of Bačka, Banat, Srem and Šabac will enable the irrigating of around 47,954 ha of additional areas of agricultural land.

In 2019, alongside the completion of contracted works on the construction of the Pesir pumping station and the Kikinda-CS Mokrinska II irrigation system, and the continuation of works on the construction of the Mali Iđoš irrigation system and the hydro-reclamation system on the territory of Šabac, the intention of expanding activities on implementation of the project activities means that plans include the launch of realisation for another 18 projects on the territories of Bačka, Banat and Srem, with which conditions will be secured for the irrigating of an additional 57,248 ha of agricultural land.

Works are well underway on the construction of the system in the area of the Valjevo radar centre, while the completed first phase will enable the system for defence against hail to be activated already during this season

With the aim of improving the management of agricultural land and preventing the illegal use of state land, the ‘Geo Srbija’ portal now also has data available on agricultural land under state ownership. What type of data is available to users and what are the positive effects of such public announcements?

– During the course of 2018 and early this year, the Directorate for Agricultural Land implemented a number of systemic measures aimed at indexing and establishing precise records of agricultural land under state ownership, while we also brought the decision to take a step further – to make this record completely transparent and available to the public.

This relates not only to availability of the list of plot numbers that are published on the website of the Directorate for Agricultural Land, but also to the mapping of state agricultural land on satellite images of the portal of national geo-spatial data – GeoSrbija.

This portal, which is accessible and represents a service to all citizens of Serbia, includes a separate section in which all registered land plots managed by the Ministry of Agriculture are clearly mapped, while plots that are owned by the Republic of Serbia but that are exempt from leasing due to certain legal or physical reasons are also indexed and recorded.

It is necessary to emphasise that this database is dynamic and that changes occur on a daily basis, which are monitored by the Directorate and updated on a monthly basis, and by the end of April this year we will have launched another public application enabling the determining of who the leaseholders of mapped plots are, as well as the duration of the lease period and the price paid to lease plots. With this we have ensured the full informing of the public regarding the management of this important state resource, which in itself represents the most effective mechanism in the fight against usurpation and other illegal activities relating to this important resource.

The next project that the Ministry is working on actively relates to securing services that will report automatically – via satellite images updated on a weekly basis – to the Directorate regarding data on plots where agricultural production exists, and which are not leasing subjects during the current agro-economic year. Agricultural inspectors will visit all of these plots with the aim of determining the identity of illegal users and taking legal measures against those responsible, and this service should already yield results by the end of June this year.