With over 6.12 million hectares of agricultural land (of which 60% is arable) and perfect climate conditions, Serbia is able to produce a diversity of fruits and vegetables. The lowest usage of fertilizers and pesticides in Europe, fertile soil, a favorable yearly balance of sun and rain, a tradition of growing plants, and care and expertise in developing food products make Serbian food simply tastier.
According to the Development Agency of Serbia (Serbia Food Industry, September 2016), the industry is highly export-oriented; the food production and food-processing subsectors’ exports account respectively for about 25% and 35% of total Serbian turnover depending on the year. The trade balance of agricultural products is in constant surplus. In 2015, Serbia had a high surplus that amounted to €1.1 billion, which was 19% higher than in 2014. Serbia is the biggest exporter of foodstuffs among Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA) countries and the only net exporter.
US companies Pepsico, Molson Coors, Coca-Cola, Austrian Rauch, Swiss Nestlé, Denmark’s Carlsberg, UAE’s Al Rawafed, United Kingdom’s Salford and Ashmore, and many others have chosen Serbia as their preferable investment destination.
Fruit production is one of the key subsectors. With fruit export of €57.6 per capita, Serbia was ranked 13th globally in 2014. In 2015, export of fruit amounted to €526.1 million. In 2015, Serbia was the largest provider of frozen fruit to the French and Belgian markets and the second largest to the German market.
With around 79,000 tons produced, Serbia accounted for more than 21% of the global production of raspberries in 2015 and was the largest global exporter of raspberries with export revenues amounting to US$270 million. Around 80-85% of raspberry production is being exported mainly frozen and in bulk. There is also huge potential in production of final products such as frozen fruit in smaller retail packages, spreads, jams, toppings, ingredients for the ice cream industry, fruit cubes for yoghurt production, etc.
Apples are also an important export. Serbia exports more than US$100 million of apples annually especially to the Russian Federation, to which it was the largest exporter of apples in 2015. Massive apple orchards are expanding all across Serbia especially in Vojvodina, with premium melioration systems, trendy varieties, and modern anti-hail nets.
Climate is also favorable for vegetable production, and Serbia is the main exporter of vegetables to southeastern Europe. Pepper (paprika) is exported in different forms—shredded, cooked, roasted or dried and used for the production of aromatic spices.
In terms of production, potatoes are the most important vegetable followed by cabbage, melons, and watermelons. The production of green peas and sweet corn is constantly on the rise due to increased global consumption of frozen, ready-to-eat meals.
Livestock farming and meat processing in Serbia also have a long tradition and a strong position in the CEFTA market. The most popular meat products are fresh or smoked pork and beef as well as poultry. Serbian pâté, dry sausages of different types, hotdogs, and smoked meats are widely spread through retail chains in the Western Balkans.
The Serbian dairy industry exports various products internationally—from kajmak, a creamy dairy spread originally made in Serbia, to yoghurt, paprika in sour cream, and white, soft, and hard cheeses. Fresh and pasteurized milk is used mainly for the local market or exported regionally. However, Serbian export companies are eyeing new markets, primarily Russia and Turkey for the signed FTAs.
Traditional Serbian white cheese and kaymak
Serbia also has a great potential for producing and placing organic products thanks to the number of small land properties—two to four hectares—and excellent climate and soil conditions. Possibilities for organic food production are endless and underexploited. Organic farming is increasing every year—from 5,800 hectares in 2010 to 15,000 hectares in 2016.
Serbian organic farming is often focused on export. Traditionally, this includes mostly fruits requiring a low degree of processing such as frozen raspberries, blackberries, sour cherries, blueberries, and strawberries but also fresh apples, concentrated fruit juices, dried fruits, medicinal herbs, mushrooms, and different varieties of fruit purées.
Organic farming in Serbia