15 Oct 2021

SERBIA: FIRST BERRY BUSINESS FORUM CONCLUDED

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The first Berry Business Forum was held in Serbia on 6 October and the conference covered all topics of interest to growers: market trends, growers' rights, climate change and funding opportunities. It was a knowledge sharing event and a networking opportunity for all participants.

Julka Toskic, from the organisation Serbia does Fruits, presented the latest data on berry exports in the first eight months of 2021 (see table below).

Serbia is famous for raspberry production, but other berries are also gaining importance. Orchards of blueberries have increased in the last five years because the berries are easier to handle after harvesting and have a longer shelf life. blueberries are easier to handle after harvest and have a longer shelf life. Serbian farmers are skilled growers, but the circumstances for growing berries are changing due to global climate change, new market demands, changing consumer preferences, etc. Therefore, knowledge transfer and continuous education have been identified as necessary by the growers themselves.

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It was noted at the conference that the assistance of the USAID Competitive Economy Project and the Embassy of the Netherlands in knowledge transfer has supported the improvement of berry production in Serbia. The quality of the fruit has improved and the number of farmers willing to engage in a cooperative has increased.

Milos Milutinovic, Category Manager for F&V at Ahold Delhaize Serbia, explained that meeting the demanding requirements and standards set by retail chains is beneficial for growers. If the local market cannot consume the quantities produced, exporting the excess products would not be a problem, because they are of high quality. He also praised the initiative of local farmers to join forces and join a cooperative or collaborate with larger producers who can deliver to the retail chain. Big systems like Ahold Delhaize cannot deal with many individual farmers, so they would have to find a formula to cooperate with each other.

Representatives of the largest berry producers in Serbia, Agrobel and Berry4u praised the efforts of the Serbian Ministry of Agriculture in negotiating new trade agreements and opening new markets for Serbian products.

Thanks to the joint efforts of Serbian officials and growers, Serbian berries reached markets in MalaysiaHong Kong and the Gulf countries for the first time this year. It was noted that distant markets are important, but the most important are regional and European markets, and they must remain in the sights of Serbian berry exporters.

Edgar Krieger, Secretary General of CIOPORA (the international community of breeders of asexually reproduced ornamental and fruit varieties) stressed the importance of good planting materials and growers' rights. The fight against climate change through the implementation of new production technologies was emphasised by Gondy Heijerman from the DELPHY Institute and Pfor Jasminka Milivojevic from the Faculty of Agriculture in Belgrade. The owner of Intersad engaged in strawberry production shared with the group that fifteen years ago they only had frost once a year. Today, they count up to 15-17 cold spells in a single year. Open field production is coming to an end and producers will definitely turn to indoor production.

A lot of information was shared during the conference day of the first Berry Business Forum. The second day was reserved for field visits to Agrobel and the Horti Center.

Source: Agroberichtbuitenland

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