Marina Scognamiglio, Director of Italian Trade Agency in Belgrade – Wine, olive oil and pasta most imported products to Serbia from Italy
The number of foreign investments in Serbia increases each year, and one of the country's most important economic partner is Italy. This is shown by the fact that, in the first 10 months of 2017, the trade between the two countries amounted to EUR 3.3 billion. There are currently around 600 Italian companies (1,300 with Italian capital) in Serbia and they have created as many as 25,000 jobs.
The Italian Trade Agency (ICE) in Belgrade, which has operated in Serbia since 1997, has certainly made a major contribution to this. Since the very beginning, the agency has been working on introducing Italian companies to the possibilities of doing business in Serbia and cooperating with Serbian partners through organizing numerous initiatives and events.
– The Italian Trade Agency is the Governmental agency that supports the business development of Italian companies abroad. With a widespread network of about 80 overseas offices, ITA provides information, assistance, consulting, promotion and training to Italian and foreign small and medium-sized businesses. Using the most modern multi-channel promotion and communication tools, it acts to assert the excellence of Made in Italy in the world. The ITA-ICE office in Belgrade has been operating since 1997 – Marina Scognamiglio, Director of Italian Trade Agency in Belgrade, says in her interview with eKapija.
eKapija: Is Serbia an attractive country for Italian investors? If we are talking in numbers, how much are Italian investments in Serbia? For which companies we are the most appealing to invest?
– Italy is one of the most important investors in Serbia with Italian companies investing about EUR 3 billion since 2000, according to Banca Intesa’s assessment. According to the level of investments in Serbia, Italian companies invested mostly in financial sector, textile, automotive, furniture and wood processing industries.
However, as the Italian economy transforms in Italy, its investments abroad follow this trend. For example, there is a strong presence of Italian capital in ICT companies in Serbia. These companies are not only looking for skilled labor force of which Serbia is famous for, but they are also developing new products and innovative technologies. This brings our cooperation on higher levels since it contributes to the exchange of know-how between our experts and results in better introduction and application of digital technologies in companies.
eKapija: What could Serbia do as a country to attract as many investors as possible?
– The most important condition for attracting investors is to ensure clear and stable regulations, good infrastructure and labor force. These parameters are quite good in Serbia. When it comes to improving the investment climate, in my opinion, an issue Serbia should work on is the improvement of import custom procedures.
eKapija: What Serbia most often imports from Italy and what are the products that we export to Italy to the largest extent?
– The volume of foreign trade between Italy and Serbia shows a steady growth and, at this moment, the total amount is about four billion euros. Furthermore, all the most important products in foreign trade between Italy and Serbia are the same for both countries, due to the significant Italian investment in Serbia. The most important goods in foreign trade between Serbia and Italy are vehicles and spare parts, i.e. 28% of total export-import between the two countries. Other important sectors are machinery, food and fashion.
eKapija: It is known that Italian cuisine is one of the favorites around the world. Is the food industry most appealing to Italian companies in general?
– The food sector is one of the most important Italian industries, employing around 400,000 people and generating a total turnover of around EUR 140 billion in 2017, which however develops an added value that reaches EUR 214 billion, when extended to the catering sector, and that is worth 13% of the national GDP, according to figures of the Italian Institute of Services for the Agricultural Food Market - ISMEA.
Many Italian food businesses (especially in the pasta and bakery segments) benefit from the strong international reputation of the “Made in Italy” trademark. “Made in Italy” is linked to the passion for the quality of Italian products around the world, as well as to the domestic market.
eKapija: Do you have any information on what are the most popular Italian products in the supermarkets in Serbia?
– Italy occupies the first place as a country of origin with regard to imports of wine, olive oil and pasta in Serbia. In the sector of milk and dairy products, Italy is the second largest supplier in Serbia, after the Netherlands and positioning itself in front of Germany. Among the Italian food products consumed in Serbia we should also mention the products of meat processing industry as well as bakery and confectionery industry.
eKapija: In Serbia, the Italian Cuisine Week is celebrated for the third time. What is the theme of this year's edition? What kind of program is planned for lovers of Italian cuisine?
– The main topic of the third edition of Italian cuisine is the "Mediterranean diet", which was listed under the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2010. It was studied by an American doctor who observed the eating habits of peasants in southern Italy during the first years after World War II. The foods used by those peasants were mainly: fruits, vegetables, legumes, pasta, bread, olive oil and only a few fish and meat during the holidays.
eKapija: How important are these events in order to connect businessmen from the two countries?
– I think they are very important, especially from a cultural point of view, because eating is a way of living, it is related to our health and the Italian lifestyle is highly appreciated in Serbia. Therefore, discovering together how to combine quality, products and pleasure is very important.
eKapija: Serbian citizens enjoy almost all the products that come from Italian cuisine. What is it that you would emphasize as your favorite dish when it comes to Serbian cuisine?
– One of my favorite dishes is pasta with tomato sauce and Parmesan and I hope to see many other types of quality Italian pasta and tomato sauces in Serbian supermarkets, along with Parmesan and good olive oil.
eKapija: In the near future, could we expect some new investment, perhaps the arrival of any new Italian company on the Serbian market?
– Serbia is an investment destination which provides many opportunities, and I believe that we can better use them in our mutual interest. Apart from promoting the interests of Italian companies in Serbia, as a part of their internationalization, our office in Belgrade is striving to bring high-quality investments in Serbia. In that sense, in order to create opportunities for concrete actions in the near future, the Italian Trade Agency, office in Belgrade, is organizing on 5th December 2018 at our premises in Palazzo Italia a follow-up mission “Building Together: Italy& Serbia”.
We organized a previous “Building Together” mission last May, and now the Italian companies which already took part in the event, and some new ones, are coming to Serbia with concrete cooperation project proposals. The event is organized in collaboration with the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Italian Ministry of Economic Development, Italian Embassy in Belgrade, ANCE - Italian Association of private construction contractors, OICE - Italian Association of engineering, architectural and technical-economic consulting organizations, and with the participation of ANIE – Federation of Italian electrical engineering and electronics companies.
The aim of this initiative is, on the one hand, to provide as much information as possible to Italian companies on the possibilities and business opportunities within road and railway infrastructure, energy and environmental protection sectors in Serbia, on its development plans and priority infrastructure projects, and at the same time, to provide first-hand information on projects financially supported by major European and international institutions. The event is free of charge. Interested companies should contact our office in Belgrade.