Vojvodina has extremely fertile land and an abundance of watercourses, which enables diversity, in terms of the representation of all branches of agriculture, especially vegetable and fruit growing, viticulture, animal husbandry, but also aquaculture
In creating the budget, we were guided by the principles of prudent management of funds and based on that we introduced new measures, which have not been a part of the annual programmes so far, namely reclamation of degraded forests (we have allocated 25 million dinars for this measure), the fruit and vegetable processing measure (also 25 million dinars) and the measure related to the procurement of live game (a total of 19,600,000.00 dinars allocated).
The Vojvodinian government has offered farms co-financing funds in the amount of 100 million dinars for investments in fruit and vegetable growing, as well as other agricultural segments. What exactly does this mean for farmers and to what extent has this financial assistance been realized so far?
The Provincial Secretariat for Agriculture devised the programmes on time, and based on these programmes, we have launched public competitions related to boosting agricultural production. Our focus is on small and medium farms. Another segment of our activities in cooperation with local governments. We had several competition lines intended for local governments, which primarily relate to raising the quality of life in rural areas. The programme related to protection, landscaping and use of agricultural land for the territory of the AP Vojvodina in 2021 allocates significant funds for local self-governments, namely for improving the canal network used for drainage of agricultural land, rural roads and land consolidation procedure. The total budget of the Provincial Secretariat for Agriculture, Water Management and Forestry in 2021 is seven billion dinars.
In addition to new measures, this year’s budget, compared to last year’s one, plans a larger amount of funds for the following purposes – raising the level of efficiency of hail protection, the continuation of commissioning procedures, reconstruction of existing fish ponds and construction of new ones, afforestation of new areas, improving nursery production and new competitions for water facilities in public ownership (in order to meet the requirements of local governments, the Secretariat will co-finance the drafting of technical project documentation, so that local governments can be as ready as possible for the SERBIA 2025 programme, launched by Government of the Republic of Serbia which envisages significant investments in this sector, with one of the programme’s prerequisites being having completed project documentation).
As part of our agricultural policy, we plan to launch new competitions for local sewage facilities, spotting scopes for hunters and video surveillance for game farms. In addition to the above, I would also like to add the launch of the Automatic Hail Defence System project in the area of radar centres Bajša and Samoš, which will fully automate the anti-hail defence on the territory of the AP Vojvodina. This year, the Secretariat will also continue to fund projects that have already been launched.
The agrarian policy that we advocate focuses on young people, as a future social force and an important social resource of the present
How important are digitalization in agriculture and the implementation of new technologies? How can this contribute to Serbian agribusiness and what has the Provincial Secretariat been doing regarding this?
We must emphasize research, development and innovation. Without such efforts, there is no success in any industry, not even in agriculture. Production needs to be modernized in line with new technologies. It is important to understand that investing in new technology is not a cost, but an investment in the future. The Provincial Secretariat for Agriculture, Water Management and Forestry has recognized that the future of agriculture lies in digitalization. In cooperation with the BioSense Institute, we have created the Agrosense APV digital platform, which provides support to farmers in monitoring crop growth and planning agricultural activities. This platform represents an important step in the digitalization of agriculture and boosting the efficiency and competitiveness of domestic producers.
What can young farmers who want to engage in agricultural activities expect in the coming period? Can they become the driving force behind agricultural development?
The agrarian policy that we advocate and pursue focuses on young people as the driving force of dominant social values, that is, as a future social force and an important social resource of the present. In recent years, more precisely since 2016, when only 20 percent of young people used the funds of the Provincial Secretariat for Agriculture, there has been a turning point in the Secretariat’s agrarian policy whereby we started focusing more on villages, which resulted in new incentive measures intended exclusively for young people.
The current situation regarding the epidemic has led to partial migration, where several young people, together with their families, have been moving to the countryside and even starting their own businesses there. In this sense, our priority is to support the new generation of young farmers, by looking at the specific challenges that young people face when entering the agricultural sector, all intending to motivate them to stay and work in the countryside, creating new jobs for themselves and their families. We must specifically stimulate young people to engage in agriculture which will prompt them to stay in rural areas and live off their work. I am confident that our competition line for initial assistance to farmers, a type of a start-up if you will, will encourage young people to stay in the countryside, and by doing so, we will contribute to balancing out of rural development and prevent emigration from the countryside.
The budget in 2021 will help improve organic agricultural production. We have allocated funds for the purchase of equipment in the amount of 10 million dinars
How can challenges in the agricultural sector such as financing, credit lines and subsidies be solved?
Vojvodina has extremely fertile land and an abundance of watercourses, which enables diversity, in terms of the representation of all branches of agriculture, especially vegetable and fruit growing, viticulture, animal husbandry, but also aquaculture. Inadequate economic efficiency is one of the main problems in agriculture, hence the Secretariat’s programmes are based on investing in the material resources of agricultural holdings and processing of agricultural products.
I believe that this type of agricultural policy improves the production chain, increases competitiveness and economic efficiency, promotes greater market orientation and positively affects the long-term sustainability of agricultural holdings. When it comes to value-added agricultural and food products, the consumers’ safety when consuming these products must not be called into question. One of our proclaimed principles is that all food on the market must be safe for consumption. The agricultural and food products market is one of the most competitive markets, in general, and in the fight for better market positioning, producers must offer an added value to the consumer, in addition to meeting the legislative requirements in food safety.
Adding value to a product is a complex activity and there are several ways this can be done. However, a quality product must be at the basis of any success. Through its rural development programme, the Secretariat for Agriculture has highlighted value-added products by subsidizing processing activities in the meat, milk, fruits, vegetables, grape, oilseed, spices and medicinal plants, bee products and cultivated types of mushrooms sectors. The budget in 2021 will help improve organic agricultural production in Vojvodina. For that purpose, we have allocated funds for the purchase of equipment for organic production in the amount of 10 million dinars.
In early December, the Action Plan for the Development of Organic Agricultural Production in the AP Vojvodina for the period from 2020 to 2025 was adopted. This is a document of exceptional importance that clearly defines the development direction of organic agricultural production in the AP Vojvodina and represents the basis for improving and adjusting support measures for producers, as a type of long-term institutional support with the view of boosting this production and increase the size of land that is used for organic production. The Faculty of Agriculture from the University of Novi Sad is hired to develop the Action Plan.