Source: eKapija | Monday, 06.06.2016.| 09:35
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Organic food production becoming more and more popular in Serbia – Better legislation and joining of manufacturers the condition for further expansion

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Around 1,800 manufacturers are producing food organically in Serbia, with the biggest exporting product being organic fruit for processing. The total value of the export is estimated at around EUR 10.7 mil. The latest data available from 2014 shows that organic cultivation is made up of farming production (70%), fruit production (28% of the surfaces), with vegetables being cultivated on only 2% of the land.

- According to the official data of the Ministry of Agriculture which is gathered by certification authorities, there are around 9,500 hectares of land on which organic products are being cultivated in Serbia and much more land from which natural products are being gathered, except this don’t contribute to the statistics, since the gathering has to be controlled and organized. This is merely 0.28% of total agricultural production, which is very little considering our potentials – says Dr Snezana Oljaca of the Faculty of Agriculture in Belgrade for eKapija.

Oljaca says that organic agriculture is dominated by plant production and that two large manufacturers from two large properties in Vojvodina have increased the level of farming production. Our interviewee reminds that fruit production used to dominate, and that most fruit is exported.

- This structure needs to change towards intensifying livestock production.

This opinion is more or less shared by Ivana Simic, first secretary of the National Association for Organic Production Serbia Organica who has recently pointed to the fact that the state’s policy regarding subsidies for animal husbandry is wrong and that it has caused many manufacturers to lose the chance of getting financial help.

- State subsidies per headage are excellent, but only on paper. Practically nobody can meet the conditions required. Organic and conventional livestock farming are wrongly equated, which is why the manufacturers are required, for example, to own quality breeding animals, which the law says aren’t good for organic production – explains Simic.

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Stevica Kracunjel, owner of “Organski Salasi” from Dupljaja, Bela Crkva, has recently left, after six years, organic cattle raising precisely because of such regulations. Now he’s only raising poultry, noting, however, that the sustainability of this line of work has also come under question.

- Organic producers are experiencing great problems, because that state has reduced the subsidies drastically. It’s also hard to understand current laws and legislatives, which are very unclear about, for example, which preparations and fertilizers are actually allowed to be used. I think it’s necessary to simplify the procedures, since us farm-workers only have two rules of organic production in practice – don’t use chemical products and let the animals live in natural conditions – explains Kracunjel for eKapija and adds that, if this continues, “there will soon no longer be any organic eggs in Serbia”.

Professor Oljaca says that there is some encouraging data which shows that the amount of land used for organic growing is increasing year by year, but she agrees that there are also numerous obstacles. The first one is that there are very few registered preparations in the market which the manufacturers can buy, with organic production seeds being an additional problem, though this challenge, our interviewee says, can be overcome by using conventional seeds.

- Subsidies are indeed rather small, though still around 40% bigger that those for conventional production. According to my findings, subsidies for organic production will continue to change and will become specialized in the future – in other words, different from those for conventional production. I’m expecting some changes to happen there, but in general, it is my opinion that producers shouldn’t rely on subsidies too much. This is not the reason why people decide to go into organic production – says Snezana Oljaca.

It is apparent that Dragica Ostojic of Barajevo was led by this principle when she decided last year to register her farm. To clarify, she has been producing organically for five years now, but two years ago she decided to start producing independently and began the period of conversion.

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- It seems to me that the conditions for organic producers are somewhat better, and we have also received support from the City of Belgrade and the Chamber of Commerce of Serbia, as well as from “Gradske pijace”. Our consumers have also helped us by accepting organic food and understanding its importance – says the owner of the “Domacica Dragica” farm for eKapija.

According to available data, the organic food production industry in the world has multiplied by four in 12 years. The demand is getting bigger and the experts think that Serbia should try to use the opportunity more efficiently.

eKapija’s interviewees agree that it is necessary for the better market placement of organic products that the producers join forces and penetrate the market together. Aside from the usual sales from counters, stores and markets, producers need to do business the modern way, an example of which is the first online green market which has started operating in Novi Sad.

Of the EU states, Austria has made the most progress in organic production, but when it comes to strategic planning, it is Denmark that is the most advanced country. In 2015, it presented an official projection that, in the next 25 years, its entire agricultural production would be converted into organic production. The Germans, on the other hand, are the biggest consumers. As recently published by Euroaktiv, organic production in the EU continues to grow and is currently taking 10.3 million hectares, which is 5.9% of farming land in use. The EU enacted its first legislative on organic production back in 1991, and it soon adopted its first regulations regarding the agroecological support measures.

Marko Andrejic

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