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Prospects for Serbian Winter Cereals Negatively Impacted by Recent Floods

06 June 2014

SERBIA - In early May 2014, in Serbia prospects for winter cereal crops (mainly wheat and barley), for harvest from June/July were favourable owing to a mild winter. The wheat crop was forecast at 2.4 million tonnes, compared to the average of about 2 million tonnes in the last five years but 11 percent below last year’s bumper crop of 2.7 million tonnes.

As yet there are no official figures on flood damage. The relatively smaller barley crop is forecast at 275 000 tonnes, about 20 percent and 4 percent below last year and the previous five-year average. There has been a shift in the country towards more winter crops (mostly wheat and barley) as during several years of high summer temperatures damaged spring crops, such as the maize crop which was damaged by the summer drought in 2012.

The maize crop, planted in March/April and to be harvested in September/October, is forecast at about 6.8 million tonnes, compared to the average of the last five years of about 6 million tonnes and 5.9 million tonnes in 2013. This forecast is also made before the recent floods.

Accordingly, the aggregate 2014 cereal production, forecast at around 9.5 million tonnes, was expected to be about 6 percent higher than in the previous year’s level.

However, the extreme floods in the region caused by heavy rainfall during three days from 14 to 16 May threatened field crops as well as livestock production. Precipitation in most parts of the country in the second dekad of May 2014 reached over 100 mm per dekad, compared to 10?50 mm in the second dekad of May 2013. In almost the entire country, the relative difference in the second dekad of May 2014 compared to the long-term average was more than 80 percent.
According to local reports, 80 000 hectares of arable land were flooded and thousands of livestock are dead. Although final damages remain to be assessed with the retreat of flood waters, preliminary assessments indicate that the floods damaged cereal crops, soybeans, sunflowers as well as horticulture products. Infrastructures, processing facilities and farm equipment have also been affected. Spring crops (maize, spring barley, soybeans) may have been affected more than the relatively firmly established winter crops. Nevertheless, diseases resulting from excess moisture, such as yellow rust, are likely to emerge. Completion of the first assessment of damages is planned for the end of May. Options to mitigate consequences of the floods are currently being discussed.

New agriculture and rural development strategy

In January 2014, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Water Management Ministry of Agriculture prepared new Draft Agriculture and Rural Development Strategy for 2014–2024, a requisite for receiving EU funding. The strategy meets EU and WTO requirements.

For 2014, approximately USD 365 million have been allocated to production subsidies mostly for milk, livestock and fruits; USD 114 million to diesel fuel payments and certified seeds refunds and USD 71 million for new investments in food and agriculture. According to the law passed by the Parliament, not less than 5 percent of Serbia’s total budget should be allocated to agriculture. Interest rates for short-term farm loans for agricultural capital investments are also subsidized.

Export potential for 2014/15 marketing year (July/June) to be determined

Before the floods, Serbia was expected to return to the world markets in the 2014/15 marketing year with maize surplus of about 2 million tonnes. It is expected that export potential of the country will suffer while the domestic market will remain sufficiently supplied despite the floods. In the past five years, Serbia exported on average about 2 million tonnes of cereals a year, mainly wheat and maize. Serbia plays an important role as a supplier of cereals to neighbouring countries: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, and FYR Macedonia which are heavily dependent on imports to cover their domestic consumption.

TheCropSite News Desk

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