What do people in Switzerland eat? Thousands of jars on their way from Serbia

Last year’s export numbers put a spotlight on organic production. Healthy food is grown more and more, annual agricultural data show.

Source: Dnevnik
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Ilustracija: Eleonora Tuveri/Shutterstock
Ilustracija: Eleonora Tuveri/Shutterstock

According to officials in the Ministry of Agriculture and Ministry of Rural Care, agricultural production without chemicals and machines are ideal and could boost the efforts to revive abandoned rural households, especially in underdeveloped parts of the country, reduce unemployment and boost economic development in general.

Only two years ago, a little more than 22,000 hectares under organic production was registered, a significant increase compared to numbers from a few years ago, but still not enough compared with the volume of plantations in EU countries. Last year, we had 6,500 registered certified farms with registered exports of 37 million USD, seven million more than in 2019.

These results were achieved thanks to the financial subsidies of the Government, saving no money to encourage and increase both production volumes and agricultural land, as written in Dnevnik daily. The Government provides subsidies not only because of the high organic production cost. Both manual processing and costs incurred by manufacturers when paying wages are higher, resulting in more expensive final products compared to the conventional products, hence making them inaccessible to everyone’s pocket.

"We are fully aware of the fact that manual workers take the most money from organic producers and that domestic products are far more expensive than those abroad. That is why we give subsidies to help them. We know what is bothering them and for all problems for those engaged in processing and export, since the domestic final product is significantly more expensive compared to the same or similar abroad", said the Secretary of Serbia Organica, Ms. Ivana Simic.

She also added that subsidies are common in the EU and depend on financial strength, so in that respect, our country is not alone.
Within a year or two, IPARD 3 program intended for organic producers will start in our country, so more opportunities will be available to expand and get stronger through investments and move from breaking even to black.

Ms. Sanja Kuzmanovic from Cenej is one of organic food producers in the area. She says that there are about 15 producers in the area of the City of Novi Sad and that Novi Sad provides annual subsidies to help organic producers and pay the costs of seeds, certification, consumables for irrigation systems, etc.

The Kuzmanovic family have production on 2.3 hectares and a dozen greenhouses, growing around thirty types of vegetables. They manage to sell everything from home to big supermarkets, mostly in Belgrade, and their annual growth rate is steady. "We are optimistic about organic production, although it requires very hard physical work, huge overheads for an army of manual laborers. We also have three full-time employees", said Ms. Sanja Kuzmanovic.

She says that their plans are not intended to engage in processing or export, but to stay on the domestic market and start growing fruits in addition to growing vegetables.

The Kumbaric family farm from Seleus in the municipality of Alibunar has other plans and cultivates 75 hectares, growing cereals, and vegetables. They also grow more than 3,000 chickens, selling eggs in Belgrade markets and organic food stores. They deal with pepper and tomato processing, cook home-made ajvar, and make tomato spread, sunflower oil… According to Ms. Maja Kumbaric, every single thing they get from their fields is sold.
"So far, we are breaking even", she said to the local newspaper, pointing out that manual laborers are very expensive and the biggest chunk of the organic food manufacturing cost.

They have recently started exporting tomato spreads from their farm to customers in Switzerland.

"Around 3,000 jars were sold, 200 grams each, and although we did not quite fit into the cost price, we keep pushing it, because it is important for us to have our brand present on foreign market" said Ms. Kumbaric.

She said that domestic consumers could benefit more from learning to recognize the importance of organic food without any chemicals and that a lot of work on educating the general population is needed.

For example, we dominantly sell chicken eggs to families with small children, despite the fact that they are healthy for adults too. Compared to those from conventional production, our eggs are two to three times more expensive - 37 dinars, but there are products with almost no difference in price. Lettuce, spring onions, radishes, spinach, and alike, are slightly more expensive compared to non-organic vegetables", said Ms. Maja Kumbaric.

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