|Regulatory Framework for Organic in Serbia|
The new law on organic production and organic products was announced in June 2006. The most important actors in organic production in Serbia, including consultants, certifiers, professors, researchers, producers, ministry officials, and NGO representatives, were involved in its creation. The standards have been written but have not yet been announced. In the meantime, EU certifiers, Ecocert, BCS, Ceres, KRAV, and IMO are still certifying organic operators in Serbia. Certifiers use their own standards, and local or regional trained inspectors do the inspections. The certification organizations authorized by the Ministry to do organic inspection and certification are the Organic Control System (OCS), Subotica, Jugoinspekt, and Novi Sad.
Big farms, processors with their own land, and wild production operators are certified individually. Grower group certification for small farmers is cheaper and was initiated by NGOs or by big companies. Almost all EU certification bodies that work in Serbia accept grower group certification in rural areas.
One critical factor for successful standard and certification development at all stages was the absence of knowledge and cooperation. After the sanctions, institutional conditions for agriculture were bad and production remained at a low level. The present Serbian government worked primarily with the goal of improving the general conditions for agriculture (credit lines for farmers, subsidies for different products, creation of market oriented farmers, etc.). Several measures contributed to agricultural development but not specifically to the development of organic agriculture.
Role of standards
Domestic standards are needed to increase general awareness about organic production and nature protection. Then organic production will be included in the institutional agricultural framework and the level of knowledge will automatically increase. The subsidy system could be improved and the farmers would benefit through better farm planning, documentation, etc. With domestic standards, new initiatives related to domestic market development also will appear. Some municipalities and regions will use local standards to certify large agricultural areas where there are small farmers and traditional production.
Organic agriculture policy
There are no specific measures that discriminate against organic agriculture. Import of GMO seeds and growing of GMO plants are not allowed. There are no measures to support the use of synthetic fertilizers, herbicides, or insecticides.
In 2004 the government introduced subsidies for organic and in-conversion farmers, associations, and cooperatives, with 40-50% of certification costs covered by the state. The Ministry also covers 40-50% of the costs for regional cooperation, establishment of organic demonstration farms, and educational activities. However, only one association (certification) and three municipalities (education) received state financial support in 2006. The main reason that operators could not utilize the subsidies is that the farmers are not directly involved in certification, while companies could not apply for subsidies. Future measures should be better adapted to the local reality and conditions. Some USAID programs are supporting processors who want to enter organic production, and contribute 40-50% of the certification costs.
The major driving force in organic agriculture policy development is the government itself. The Ministry developed international and regional cooperation with the goal of increasing the level of knowledge of public officials and improving the institutional framework for organic production. In several cases the Ministry representatives are in contact with important organic actors such as NGOs, certifiers, consultants, and professors, but the most important decisions were taken without consultation with these organic actors. A consequence of this state-driven development is that some good initiatives failed. An action plan and a strategy for organic production would benefit the development. (Author: Senad Hopic)
Organic Case Studies in Serbia
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