The production of berries, which is grown on 36,000 hectares in Serbia, has an upward trend, and we expect that the exchange of experiences and knowledge at the second Berry Business Forum will further contribute to that, said Assistant Minister of Agriculture Vedrana Ilic. Opening the one-day regional forum, she said: “I think that this forum is an excellent opportunity to meet every year the leading actors from this area of a large number of countries, which certainly contributes to the development of not only economic cooperation, but also the improvement of berry production and processing technologies.” Serbia is known for its berry fruit. Frozen raspberries are the leading export product of the Serbian food industry, and berry fruits such as blueberries, strawberries or blackberries are grown on increasing areas. In 2021, strawberries were grown on a total area of 36,000 ha. Raspberries were the first at 21,000 ha, strawberries at 7,000 ha, blackberries at 5,000 ha and blueberries at 2,500 ha”.
Ambassador of the Netherlands in Belgrade, Joost Reintjes, estimated that cooperation in agriculture, not only in the berry sector, is very important for his country. He pointed out that some of the top companies from the Netherlands are present at the business forum. He said that the combination of technique and professional knowledge leads to great cooperation between the two countries in this segment of agriculture. The ambassador stated that people from Dutch companies visited fruit growers and companies in Serbia this week, and that the exchange of experiences will continue next week in the Netherlands. He sees the development of this cooperation as an opportunity to further strengthen the cooperation between Serbia and the Netherlands.
Saso Risteski from USAID’s Economic Development Governance and Enterprise Growth Project said that the Berry Business Forum is an opportunity for additional networking in the region, which, as well as supporting European integration, the organization has been working on through the implementation of the project since 2019. Apart from the exchange of information and experiences, he expects the forum to establish new contacts with producers, traders and exporters. Risteski, with the results that the meeting brings, expects the forum to become a traditional annual regional event in this sector of fruit growing.
Isidora Smigic from NALED spoke on the panel about the workforce. On this occasion, she highlighted the workforce employment project initiated by this organization. “Therefore, the novelty introduced with this system is to no longer sign a contract and to reduce the administration which, according to estimates, lasted about 5 hours. Now the entire application takes only a few minutes, everything is completely electronic, there is no paperwork. And what is crucial is that workers are guaranteed the right to pension and health insurance in the event of an injury at work. On the other hand, they do not lose their rights to social benefits if they receive them. Also, there is a fixed amount of taxes and contributions paid by employers for one worker per day. According to the results we have, for these three and a half years, over 72,000 workers have been registered. This year alone, that number already exceeds 30,000 workers. What is interesting is how many employers use this system. Now there are over 600 employers, with the fact that it should be borne in mind that this system is used by both legal and natural persons.
Fruit production in 2021 amounted to 1,436,122 tons, which is about 11.3% less compared to the previous year. There is an increasing number of new, intensive plantations with modern cultivation technology and higher planting density.
The Forum was attended by a dozen experienced experts and producers from the Netherlands who pointed out that Serbia should make a change in the production of blueberries in the sense of innovating the assortment and not only using the Duke variety, which is represented in 99% of cases in our plantations. On this occasion, they pointed out the importance of analyzing the water used for irrigation and plant feeding, because the yield of blueberries largely depends on it.
Berry Business Forum 2022 was organized by Agro Belgrade with the support of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Water Management of the Republic of Serbia, the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, USAID’s Economic Development Governance and Enterprise Growth Project and the Belgrade Fair. More than 250 producers and experts participated in the Forum.
Raspberry production in 2022 is expected to increase compared to last year.