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Andrej Beslać, President Of The Food And Agriculture Alliance

Digitalization Of Agriculture Begins With Eagriculture

The introduction of an online platform to register agricultural holdings (e-Agrar) would be the cornerstone of a digitalisation process in agriculture, and we would like to work with the relevant ministry

In Serbia, there are over 400,000 active agricultural holdings. To register them, change data or exercise their right to incentives, their managers have to go through four counters and submit 90 different pieces of information contained in over 10 documents. To obtain the required paperwork, they waste time and money. Furthermore, up to 60% of the paperwork is unnecessary or repetitive because the state already has the required data. At the same time, staff of the public administration waste a lot of time processing requests, checking the submitted data one document at a time and typing the information in their databases, which can sometimes lead to untimely payment of incentives.

The impact of these procedures on the development of agriculture is the key reason why eAgriculture should be established among the 10 priority recommendations in edition 13 of the Grey Book. The eAgriculture system would be a central online platform for registering agricultural holdings and distributing incentives. In addition to reducing farmers’ expenses by 85%, it would also connect more than 20 public registers and facilitate planning and oversight of agricultural policy carried out by the Ministry of Agriculture.

The Ministry of Agriculture is responsible for implementing the 10 recommendations of the new Grey Book, and we would particularly like to emphasise the importance of better legal regulation of food donations. A rulebook for safe food donations after the ‘best before’ period has expired and fiscal relief for food donations would reduce food waste at a time when vulnerable groups are in dire need of food. Food donations are regular practice in the EU.

Although considerable progress has recently been achieved, we must ensure faster updating of domestic regulations to keep up with rapid changes in EU food regulations

The Grey Book contains two recommendations for improving conditions for developing organic production. Initiatives launched by NALED through the Public- Private Development Dialogue project supported by USAID contain recommendations to introduce incentives for small organic producers and livestock breeding, including simplifying procedures to obtain them. Leasing state land to organic producers must also be assisted.

On the subject of food safety, there is for the first time in the Grey Book a recommendation to simplify the import of animals, and products and food of animal origin. Import permits issued by our country are unnecessary because such food already possesses an international veterinary certificate. This is a superfluous administrative practice, which only Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro still have in our surroundings.

The Food and Agriculture Alliance, which currently has 47 members including companies, local governments and associations, has defined several priorities in establishing modern agriculture, with other initiatives in addition to improving administrative procedures. We believe we must systematize the process of continuous harmonization of Serbian regulations with EU law to facilitate trade with the EU, provide legal protection in the food and agriculture sector and create the necessary conditions for joining the European single market. At the same time, EU laboratory results should be recognised to facilitate the trade in food and agricultural products. Although considerable progress has recently been achieved, food import procedures are still too time-consuming.