|Serbia Case Studies|
Organic development in Serbia is export driven. Organic agriculture was initiated in 1990 by the Association Terras in the municipality of Subotica. When the economic sanctions ended in 2000, investors, buyers, and donors came to Serbia with projects, organization and export market possibilities. In 2006 the Ministry of Agriculture announced an organic law, but standards are not yet finalized and EU certifiers are still certifying organic operators in Serbia. In 2004, the government introduced subsidies to cover about half of the certification costs and for cooperation and some educational activities. Development of the sector is government driven, without much consultation with the sector. All parts of the organic chain are present but the sector is unorganized, with lack of coordination and cooperation among projects, activities, and stakeholders. The main actors are donors and companies that do not have an interest in organizing the sector. The most important organic products are wild or cultivated fruit and berries exported as frozen or processed, and frozen, salted and dried wild mushrooms. Most production is concentrated around the cooling plants. 72 operators on 2,411 ha, 0.14% of the arable land, were certified in 2006, and 2,155 ha is under conversion; the potential for further expansion is great. Certified land area for wild production (berries, mushrooms, and herbs) is approximately 450,000 ha, which represents 12% of total non agriculture land.
Serbia’s climate offers favorable conditions for mechanized field crop farming and vegetable production. Farmland constitutes 70% of the total area of Serbia. The major crops are wheat, barley, maize, sugar beets, sunflowers, soybeans, tobacco, potatoes, grapes, berries, apples, and plums, and the hilly parts are attractive for sheep and cattle production. Approximately 44% of the population lives in rural areas and 17.3% of the total population is engaged in agricultural production. Primary production and processing together account for 25% of the GDP, which makes agriculture the largest sector of the economy. Primary agricultural products account for 16-17% of total exports.
The transformation of the agrarian economy in Serbia is characterized by a marked decrease in participation in the social/state sector, stagnation of the cooperative sector, and a dynamic increase in the private sector. Near the big industrial centers, agriculture is well developed with specialized production, while over 75% of the private farms are fragmented, non-market farms with mixed production on less than 5 ha. The average age of the farmers is increasing, the level of farmers’ agriculture knowledge is low, and farms usually have incomplete mechanization.
Status of Organic Agriculture
There are no official data on organic production in Serbia, but an estimate by certification organizations reported 72 certified operators in 2006. Around 14 of them are working with wild products. Organically certified land is approximately 2,411 ha, 0.14% of arable land, and 2,155 ha is under conversion. Certified land area for wild production (berries, mushrooms and herbs) is approximately 450,000 ha, which represents 12% of total non-agricultural land. However, the figures are unreliable since different certification organizations are certifying the same regions and operators for the same or different products.
The most important organic products in Serbia are wild and cultivated fruits and berries. Exports consists primarily of frozen berries (raspberries, strawberries, blackberries and blueberries) and smaller amounts of frozen and dried plums and sour cherries, organic certified jams, sweets, apple concentrate, vinegar, and juices. The main regions for organic fruit production are Central and South Serbia, where the most important organic certified cooling plants are located. The cooling plants gather farmers into grower groups, between 15 and 600 farmers per group. A few companies deal with wild and cultivated dried medicinal and aromatic herbs for export. The collection of certified organic wild mushrooms also is well developed, primarily in the southwestern parts of Serbia. Frozen, salted, and dried wild mushrooms are major export products. Donors and investors are very interested in further development of organic fruit production in Central Serbia.
In the region of intensive agriculture, organic cereals like wheat, maize, barley, and oats, as well as pumpkins, oil beets and sunflowers are well developed. The main organic products are flour, dried pumpkin seeds for human consumption, oils, and creams. Several big companies and farms have contracted for export. These crops are produced on units of 100 to 300 ha, which is big for Serbian conditions, and the operators have individual certificates. Certified organic vegetable production is relatively small. Fresh, frozen, and preserved vegetables as well as ground red peppers are mainly exported, but some fresh vegetables are placed on the domestic market as well. There are no examples of organic certified livestock production. The operators mainly are individually certified but there are also a few examples of grower group certification.
The conclusion is that the possibilities for further development of organic production are great, and it can be expected that organic production will increase in the future.
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