Serbian raspberry industry is dying out – it’s Russia, Poland and Mexico’s turn

The golden age for Serbian raspberries, in terms of production and prices, is behind us.

Year-on-year, the raspberry industry in our country has been recording a decline, and the only thing that is growing is the discontent of the raspberry producers. So much so, that they have decide stage a protest, and block the main roads, demanding the state to provide a minimum purchase price of 180 dinars per kilogramme instead of the current 90 dinars.

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Images of the raspberry producers blocking the main motorways, the passengers who couldn’t pass the barricades, and the straightforward answer from the government that state could not guarantee the price of raspberry, is a summary of yesterday’s chaos that brings about an obvious question – how did we manage to fall from being top raspberry producers in the world to the bottom?

For a long time, Serbia was the top global raspberry producer, but instead of retaining this high position, the country’s ranking has been declining every year, and currently we occupy the fifth place. Furthermore, while other countries are growing more raspberries each year to meet the growing demand, Serbia has reduced its raspberry production by a third.

Serbia in a Good Second Place

Until a year ago, Serbia was in second place in the production of raspberries. According to the United Nations FAOSTAT, from 2010 to 2016, Russia increased its production by 24 percent, Poland by 28 percent, USA by 51 percent, and Mexico by as much as 87 percent. At the same time, Serbia reduced raspberry production by a third, or 36 percent during the same period.

All of this was reflected in the change in the ranking too. For seven consecutive years, from 2002 to 2008, we were the second in the world in terms of raspberry production. From 2009 to 2011, we fell to third place, from 2012 to 2015, we were in the fourth position, and in 2016 we finished in the fifth place.

The Golden Age is behind us

Every year, around this time, the raspberry producers are starting to voice their discontent. This time around, the protests are more radical, and the raspberry producers more decisive than ever. They have blocked the main road to Montenegro and are asking the state to provide a minimum purchase price of 180 dinars per kilogramme. Help is being sought from the Ministry of Agriculture, and from the Serbian Prime Minister and the President.

Agriculture Minister, Branislav Nedimovic says that the state can ot do anything when it comes to raspberry prices.

“They are asking for a particular price, and the state has no influence over that. I do not know how long with the protests lasts. We did meet one of their requirements which was to establish the National Raspberry National, as well as solve the problem with fertilizers”, the minister adds.

PM Ana Brnabic has also confirmed that the state could not and would not guarantee the buyout price of raspberry, because it is the market that dictates the prices. She added that she was always willing to talk with the producers, but only after they unblock the main road to Montenegro.

Requirements of raspberry producers

The first and basic requirement is to regulate the raspberry market, but also to put a stop to those people who are only re-packaging  the raspberries, as well as insatiable cold storage owners who would like to become rich overnight on the back of suffering of raspberry producers.

“The market is the one that determines the price, and the state can only make it easier for the producers”, says Marko Cadez, president of the Serbian Chamber of Commerce.

However, the situation is serious and a meeting of the Agriculture Committee is scheduled for Wednesday, with the raspberry producers in attendance.

How much does it cost to grow raspberry?

The starting price of 50 to 80 dinars for a kilogramme does not even cover the basic production costs, says Dragan Jovic who has planted 40 acres in the vicinity of Kursumlija.

“Those people whose livelihood depends on raspberries will grow them, while others will turn to growing other fruit and vegetables since raspberries are too much of a burden to them. At the current price of 80 dinars per kilogramme, we can only lose”, Jovic adds.

When asked what was the solution, our interlocutor says:

“The state should find a way to organize a buyout, to have storage facilities, and then producers can sell raspberry when the price is good. This means that producers are the owners of the goods, which they can sell later, when the price fits them. In this way, the cold storage owners will not be in a position to blackmail them. Currently, we sell at the price that they dictate, and the producers are unprotected. The state could find large buyers abroad that the producers could sell directly to”.

Last year, the average buyout price of raspberries in the Arilje region was 155 dinars per kilogramme, while in South Serbia it was 120 dinars. The export price is around 1.85 euros.

Pickers get 200 dinars an hour

According to Dragan’s calculation, 90 dinars currently offered for a kilo of raspberry, does not cover the basic costs which are 50 dinars up until raspberries are picked and 50 dinars after they are picked which is in total 100 dinars. The cost of pruning, cultivating, fertilizing, spraying, and digging is about 50 dinars per kilogramme. Dragan pays 200 dinars per hour to pickers, plus he gives them food and transportation free of charge.

(Blic, 05.06.2016)

This post is also available in: Italiano

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