This is a best prospect industry sector for this country. Includes a market overview and trade data.
Last Published: 2/26/2018

Overview

Agriculture in Serbia is at the heart of the economy and is an engine for development of rural areas.  Agriculture’s contribution to Serbia’s GDP remains high.  In 2016, agriculture accounted for 11.9 percent of GDP, 2.4 percent higher than last year, mostly due to very favorable weather conditions and record crops.  This high participation in the country’s GDP has mostly resulted from Serbia’s fertile land and natural conditions for agricultural production, as well as the continued importance of the rural economy to Serbia’s population and delays in structural reforms in other sectors of the economy.  According to the Serbian Statistical Office, there are 680,000 people employed in agriculture or 21 percent of the total labor force in the country.  Agriculture also is the most important export sector in Serbia.  In 2016, agriculture and food production accounted for 19.4 percent of all Serbian exports and enjoyed a surplus of $ 1.4 billion, $130 million more than in 2015 (mostly due to an increase in processed fruit and vegetable exports).  Approximately 60 percent of Serbia’s agricultural land is used for cereal crop production including corn, wheat, barley, sunflowers, soya, and sugar beets.  The major agricultural land is in the northern part of the country; Vojvodina accounts for 84 percent of total cultivable land in Serbia.  The country has 5.05 million hectares (ha) of arable land.  Approximately 90 percent of arable land is privately owned and 10 percent belongs to the government.  According to the Serbian Agriculture Census from 2012, there are approximately 630,000 registered agricultural entities of which approximately 99.6 percent are family households and 0.4 percent are legal entities.  The average size of the family holding is only 4.5 ha large and the average size of commercial registered farms is 10.6 ha.

In 2016, the total value of Serbia’s agricultural production was $5.3 billion, or 15 percent higher than in 2015, mostly due to favorable weather conditions and record sized yields for most crops including corn, wheat, soya, sunflower, sugar beet, vegetables and fruit production. For 2016, corn production was valued at $1.3 billion annually (7.5 million MT).  Wheat was the second most cultivated cereal, valued at $473 million (3 million MT).  Sunflower production was valued at $166 million (650,000 MT per year), soybean was valued at $145 million (570,000 MT) and sugar beet production was valued at $94 million (2.5 million MT). Considerable revenues ($463 million annually) also came from the fruit sector, especially from raspberries ($105 million) and apples ($106 million).  Serbia’s livestock production represents approximately 34 percent of the total value of Serbia’s agricultural production.  It was valued at $1.8 billion in 2016, approximately 20% higher than in 2015.  Proportionally, Serbia’s livestock sector is mostly divided as follows: pigs $700 million (41%), cows $680 million (40%), poultry $240 million (14%), and sheep $85 (5%).  The food processing industry remains an attractive sector for investment, given the country’s natural resources and traditional production background, but the industry still lacks modern technology.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Environmental Protection (MAEP) is responsible for the government’s strategy in the field of international and domestic agricultural trade, food processing, rural development, environment, forestry, and water management.  Since 2015, MAEP has limited payment of incentives to smaller agricultural concerns by reducing the maximum farm size for registered agricultural households to be eligible to use state subsidies from 100 ha to 20 ha.  In Serbia, approximately 94 percent of registered farmers have up to 20 ha of arable land, while the remaining 6 percent are big farmers with arable land over 20 ha.

The Serbian Parliament approved an agriculture budget for 2017 at 43.78 billion dinars ($374 million), an increase of 3.3 billion dinars ($28 million) or 8 percent compared to 2016.  Agriculture makes up 4 percent of the total state budget for 2017.  The 2017 agriculture budget will introduce new “start-up” credits for young farmers in poor areas of Serbia, as well as incentives for purchasing new agriculture machinery, irrigation equipment and insurance policies for production.

In February 2017, the Serbian government adopted the new Rulebook on Allocation of Subsidies for Agriculture Production and Rural Development.  Subsidies for planting crops in will be 4,000 dinars ($36) per hectare; of this amount, half will be earmarked to purchase seeds and the other half to purchase mineral fertilizers.  According to the new rulebook, state support for milk production in 2017 will remain the same as previous years (7 dinars [$0.06] per liter).  Livestock production subsidies will range from 100 dinars ($0.91) for laying hens to 25,000 dinars ($227) per cow.  Incentives for beehives will be 720 dinars ($6.55) per hive.  The government is also offering to cover 40 percent of storage costs for farmers.  For support to organic production, the state has set aside 90 million dinars ($818,000) and for preservation of plant and animal genetic resources, approximately 65 million dinars ($590,009).  In 2017, the Serbian government allocated approximately 43.78 billion dinars ($374 million), 9 percent higher than in 2016 when the agriculture budget was 40.16 billion dinars ($365 million).  The total agriculture budget for 2017 consists of direct payments (farmer subsidies) for what will amount to 18.67 billion dinars ($170 million), support for rural development with 2.85 billion dinars ($26 million), credit support to agriculture producers of 670 million dinars ($6.1 million), specific incentives of 255 million dinars ($2.3 million) and funds for IPARD support of 250 million dinars ($2.3 million).

In 2014, the Serbian government adopted a new Agricultural and Rural Development Strategy 2014-2024.  The strategy, a requisite for receiving EU funding, sets guidelines for adjusting Serbia’s agriculture to meet EU and WTO requirements and defines the basic reforms needed in the agricultural sector.  The strategy is focused on reforms that will improve Serbia’s business environment and competitiveness, raise living conditions, and introduce greater stability for farmers in rural areas.  According to the Ministry of Agriculture, Serbia needs to define budgetary incentives and adopt laws and rulebooks that facilitate agricultural development, as well as greater farmer training and exposure to new technologies.  In addition to the Agriculture and Rural Development Strategy, the MAEP prepared the National Development Programs 2015 - 2020, with more specific measures for implementing the Agriculture and Rural Development Strategy.

Since 2001, as part of the EU integration process, Serbia has been adopting new legislation in the area of agriculture and food, mostly in accordance with the Acquis Communitaire of the European Union.  Over the last six years, Serbia has adopted 34 new laws and over 120 sub-laws that enable implementing of the new laws adopted since 2009 relating to agriculture and food.  These framework laws and sub-laws will improve the overall environment for agricultural producers in Serbia and will ensure Serbia’s practices are in greater conformity with the EU and in compliance with the rules outlined by such international organizations as the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV).  However, the 2009 law on Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) that bans the cultivation and use of these products without a scientific review process is not in line with EU or WTO regulations.  Until this law is amended to comply with WTO rules, it remains an obstacle to Serbia’s WTO accession. 

In January 2015, the European Commission set aside $200 million for the next six years (2015-2020) under the Rural Development Program for Serbia (IPARD).  The program aims to increase food-safety in Serbia and improve the competitiveness of the agri-food sector as well as help Serbia progressively align it norms with EU standards.  The funding will be offered in the form of grants to co-finance appropriate investments up to a maximum public contribution of 70 percent, or potentially a total investment in the sector of almost $500 million.  Grants will be provided for: farmers producing milk, meat, fruits and vegetables and other crops; micro-, small, and medium-sized enterprises processing milk, meat, fruits and vegetables; organic production; and the development of private rural tourism facilities.

Leading Sub-Sectors

Serbia’s Agri-Food Trade Partners:
CountryExportsImports
EU58%45%
CEFTA*37%23%
OTHER COUNTRIES 5%  32%
Source: Serbian Ministry of Agriculture

*CEFTA: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Serbia and UNMIK (Kosovo)
In 2016, Serbia’s agri-food exports were $3 billion, almost the same as 2015.  Agri-food imports decreased by 10.1 percent (totaling $1.6 billion) compared to 2015.  The leading agricultural exports were vegetables, fruits, grains, grain products and beverages, whereas the top imports by value were vegetables, fruits, coffee, tea, cocoa, spices and other processed food products.  Agriculture continues to be the largest contributor to total exports.  In 2016, agriculture accounted for 19.4 percent of total Serbian exports, reaching a surplus of approximately $1.4 billion (10 percent higher than in 2015).  The most important trading partner for Serbia is the European Union.  Exports to EU countries account for 55 percent of Serbia’s total agricultural exports, whereas imports from the EU represent 45 percent of Serbia’s total agricultural imports.  Since 2001, Serbia has enjoyed preferential access for its agri-food exports to the EU.  The Serbian products with the best production and export potential remain: grains, oilseeds, sugar, fruits, vegetables, non-alcoholic beverages, water, and confectionary products.

Effective January 1, 2014, under the Stabilization and Association Agreement, the tariffs on most EU agri-food products were reduced from 23 percent to zero percent.  Only a few strategic agri- food products will continue to have duties (averaging approximately 3.2%).  Approximately 75 percent of trade has been fully liberalized, while 15 percent enjoy reduced tariffs between 10-20 percent of the applicable MFN rates, but 12 percent will continue to be subject to MFN rates after the end of the transition period in 2016.  Serbia also has free trade agreements (FTA) with the Russian Federation, Turkey, EFTA countries (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland), CEFTA countries (see table above), Belarus and Kazakhstan.

Since August 2014, when Russia imposed sanctions on select agri-food products from the United States, Canada, the European Union, Australia, and Norway, Serbian exports have been growing to that market.  Exports were $310 million in 2016 or approximately the same as in 2015, when exports to Russia increased over 65 percent compared to 2014 (before sanctions), when Serbian agricultural exports to the Russian market were valued only at $184.6 million. Serbia’s top exports to Russia are fresh and processed fruits and vegetables, dairy products, pork, beef, and meat products, ice cream, fruit juice, wine and other alcoholic beverages, as well as sunflower seeds, corn seeds, seedlings and rose nursery stock.  Serbia’s FTA with the Russian Federation dates back to 2000, while Serbian products have entered duty-free to the Customs Union (Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan) since 2009.

Serbia's agri-food exports to the world consist mainly of grains, sugar, fruits and vegetables (fresh and frozen), confectionary products and beverages.  In terms of export value, the following are the most important: grain and grain products ($752 million), processed fruits and vegetables ($520 million), edible sunflower and soy oil ($240 million), refined sugar ($166 million), wheat flour products ($110 million) and confectionery products ($104 million).  Total agri-food exports in 2016 were estimated to be $3 billion, almost the same as in 2015.

Serbia’s total agri-food imports were valued at $1.6 billion, some 10.1 percent lower than in 2015.  Agri-food imports represent approximately 8.6 percent of Serbia’s total imports and are composed mainly of European and CEFTA value added foods and beverages. Serbia registered an agri-food trade surplus of $1.3 billion, or 2.4 percent higher than in 2015.

In 2016, Serbia’s total agri-food imports from the United States were valued at $33.7 million, or 18.2 percent more than in 2015. This increase is mostly result of higher imports of processed fruits and vegetables, snacks, cacao, coffee and confectionary products from the U.S.  Agri-food imports from the United States account for 2 percent of total Serbian agri-food imports.  The leading U.S. items were: corn, sunflower, and vegetable planting seeds; nuts (almonds and pistachios); tobacco; processed fruits and vegetables; confectionary products; dietetic foods; non-dairy protein concentrates; alcoholic beverages; frozen fish and seafood; and bovine semen.  In the medium term, Serbia is likely to increase imports of planting seeds, fish, and fishery products, poultry meat for processing and high value consumer products and beverages.  Possibilities also exist to expand U.S. exports of high value products such as tree-nuts, raisins, snacks, beverage concentrates, planting seeds and seedlings, bovine semen and embryos, flavors and fragrances.

In 2016, Serbia’s agri-food exports to the United States were valued at $34.9 million, a decrease of 9 percent compared to 2015. This decrease was mostly in dry, frozen and canned vegetables and fruits, as well as confectionery products (chocolate and chocolate products). Other Serbian agri-food exports to the United States were dry, frozen and processed fruits, including juices; yeast, frozen vegetables, confectionery and bakery products; brandy and wine; sweet corn, and cheese.  During 2016, Serbia enjoyed a $1.2 million trade surplus with the United States.  Over 5,000 Serbian products, including many agricultural and food products are granted by the U.S. with Generalized System of Preferences (GSP).  GSP is one of the U.S. trade preference programs that provide opportunities for developing countries to use trade preferences in a way of paying zero or very low custom’s tariffs when exporting goods to the U.S., in order to assist the growth of developing economies.

Opportunities

Key Agri-Food Exports from the United States – 2016 (in US$)
No.CommodityTariff CodeImports from the United States Total Serbian Imports U.S. Share of total imports
1Tobacco and tobacco products2401/2402/240314,665,29898,650,95614.8%
2Almonds
 
0802129002,575,292  3,433,72275%
3Consumer orientated products2106909290/21069098903,890,10037245,65210%
4Whisky bourbon22083011001,935,877
 
  3,788,20051%
5
 
Corn and sunflower seeds1005900000/0712901100/1206001002,100,55316,252,47013%
6Protein concentrates21061020001,200,301  1,570,54076%
7
 
Dry beans0713331000   696,330  1,342,60552%
8
 
Cocoa in blocks1806209500690,7135,830,88612%
9
 
Hake0303661200532,349 860,77662%
10Processed fruits with sugar200899490   2,771,219 54,862,5845%
 
Source: Serbian Chamber of Commerce

U.S. Foreign Trade with Serbia in USD
YearU.S. Agri-Food Imports from SerbiaU.S. Agri-Food Exports to Serbia
 
201634,897,89433,671,985
201538,244,65528,533,200
201432,861,92630,182,295
201324,406,90230,373,349
201215,064,25525,919,039
201114,391,28228,664,313
Source: Serbian Chamber of Commerce

Agri-Imports in 2016 in USD
Agri-Imports2016
Total Agri-Food Imports into Serbia$1,623,272,159
Total Agri- Food Imports into Serbia from the United States 
$33,671,985
U.S. Share of Total Agri-Food Imports2%
Source: Serbian Chamber of Commerce

Web Resources

FAS Office in Belgrade
Address:
U.S. Embassy Belgrade
USDA/FAS Office
Bulevar Kneza Aleksandra Karadjordjevica 92
11 000 Belgrade
Tel: +381-11-706-4000
Email: agbelgrade@fas.usda.gov
Web page: FAS Office in Belgrade

Local employees:
Tatjana Maslac, M.S.
Agricultural Specialist
Tel: +381-11-706-4158
E-mail: Tatjana.Maslac@fas.usda.gov

Nadezda Dimitrijevic
Admin Assistant
Tel: +381-1-706-4403
E-mail: Nadezda.Dimitrijevic@fas.usda.gov

U.S. Officer:
Frederick Giles,
Regional Agricultural Counselor (residing in Rome, Italia)
E-mail: agrome@fas.usda.gov
Web-page: U.S. Embassy and Consulates

Useful Links:

USDA sites:
USDA
FAS
FAS Attaché Reports
Exporter Guide for Serbia
Food & Agricultural Import Regulations & Standards (FAIRS) Report for Serbia
FAIRS Export Certificate Report for Serbia

Serbian Government sites:
Ministry of Agriculture and Environmental Protection (in Serbian)
Vojvodina’s Secretary for Agriculture (in Serbian)
Marketing Information System site (in Serbian, some features in English)
Republic Statistical Office (in English and Serbian)

Non-Government sites:
Commodity Exchange Novi Sad, Serbia (in English and Serbian)
Database of Serbian Agricultural Companies (in Serbian) 
Food Technology
Agriculture Fair Novi Sad

Prepared by our U.S. Embassies abroad. With its network of 108 offices across the United States and in more than 75 countries, the U.S. Commercial Service of the U.S. Department of Commerce utilizes its global presence and international marketing expertise to help U.S. companies sell their products and services worldwide. Locate the U.S. Commercial Service trade specialist in the U.S. nearest you by visiting http://export.gov/usoffices.



Serbia Agribusiness Trade Development and Promotion