On Tuesday, May 12th 2020, USAID’s Competitive Economy Project organized 7th online panel discussion under the “Svet hoće domaće” initiative, in order to inform and advise food producers on key issues and ways to better cope with the Covid-19 pandemic. The panel discussion, entitled “Buy Local: Phrase or Reality” addressed the placement of local products in the domestic market, the influence of campaigns that encourage purchases of domestic products, the changes that the crisis brought along and what needs to be done to get more products from Serbia at the shelves of the local retail stores.
The panel participants were Veljko Jovanović, Director of the Agricultural Division and the Advisor to the President of the Serbian Chamber of Commerce, Goran Kovačević, General Manager of Gomex, Milica Čalija, founder of the initiative “Buy from Serbia”, and Ivana Antonijević, Advisor for Rural Development and Tourism of the Regional Development Agency Braničevo – Podunavlje, with the initiative localpazar.rs.
“At the beginning of the state of emergency, the Serbian Chamber of Commerce played a key role in helping to stabilize the supply chain and the initial hit caused by high demand. Solving problems with logistics, supply and value chains linkages reminded us of a significant topic of domestic value chains. The importance of the product, that can be called completely domestic, is multiple and is reflected in raising the capacity of the domestic supplier of raw materials and in creating added value that remains in the country and multiplies the capacities, primarily capacities of the Serbian food industry. Retail follows demand and creating awareness among consumers should be our focus in the upcoming period. Consumers should know that by buying local, they invest in themselves and their country.”, said Mr. Jovanović.
Many food producers became more visible to consumers during the crisis thanks to numerous promotional and sales platforms for domestic products. Some of the platforms existed earlier, some were launched during the crisis, but what they have in common is that their increased activity came as a result of necessity. In order to make increased demand a reality, it is necessary to continuously work on promotion of the local food industry capacities, and at the same time help producers improve their know-how and skills relating to all facets of business operations – e.g. availability, placement, marketing, promotion, packaging etc. Panelists agreed that individual initiatives have yielded good results, but that constant work is needed to promote domestic products and to educate both producers and consumers in order to see the long-term effects.
The “Svet hoće domaće” initiative, launched in September 2018, helps the promotion and education of domestic specialty food producers. During this fast-evolving situation, the USAID Competitive Economy Project, through webinar series, will continue to serve the needs of the local food industry addressing all key issues and helping producers manage through the current situation easier.