Agriculture is still one of the most important industries of the Serbian economy.
According to Serbian Agriculture Ministry data, this industry actually employs 10% of overall work force and accounts for 21% of Serbian GDP. Moreover agricultural products account for 26% of total Serbian exports. Out of 5,200,000 hectares of agriculture land, 85% is privately owned lands and 15% belongs to cooperatives or public government. 83% of Serbian agricultural lands is farmland. Harvest yields account for 57% of the total agricultural production while cattle breeding accounts for 33%. Vineyard and orchards account for 5% and 4% respectively. 60% of the harvest products is made up of cereals and only 18% is vegetable.
The breeding industry includes pig, cow, poultry and sheep breeding respectively accounting for 41%, 40%, 14% and 5% of total breeding industry production. Wheat is the most important cereal with a throughput ranging between 2 and 2.5 million ton per year and a cultivation area of over 650,000 hectares land yielding on average 3.5 t/hectare. Corn is the second mostly cultivated cereal with nearly 2 million ton per year with a yield of 4.5 ton/hectare. Sugar beetroot with an overall production of 35 ton/hectare is another important Serbian crop.
Sunflower cultivation areas extend over 170,000 hectare of land yielding a production of 300,000 ton/year and 1.7 ton/hectare. Considerable yields are also coming from the fruit sector, especially apples and plums, although there has been a recent decrease both in local consumptions and exports. Viticulture is quite spread over the whole country with an average production of 380,000 ton table grapes and wine grapes. With an overall production of 50,000-70,000 ton/year Serbia has long been one of major raspberry producers in the world and still holds a leading position.
Beans cultivations cover a surface of 50,000 hectare land yielding 1.1 ton/hectare for a total production of 60,000 tons per year. Potatoes cultivations cover an area of approximately 100,000 hectare for a total production of 800,000 ton/year. Food processing industry is presently the most attractive sector for parties wanting to invest or draw up collaborations with local parties. In fact, although Serbia has remarkable natural resources and a sound, traditional production background, the industry still lacks modern technology and strongly needs implementation.
Reflecting Yugoslavian industrial policy implemented by Yugoslavia until 1991, Serbian food processing industry has developed in the main areas yielding the highest rate of production at that time entirely exported to Yugoslavia, that is: the area of Vojvodina, the Northern regions and the South-East of the country. When Yugoslavia collapsed, Serbian agriculture and food processing industry lost not only a big part of its reference market (former Yugoslavian Republics) but also a big part of their international markets. So, the industry had to turn to the domestic market suffering an ongoing loss of purchase power.
For this reason Serbian agriculture has been experiencing a progressive decline and is now confronted with the problem of a production much below the actual capacity of the country and relatively high prices. Clearly Serbian agriculture has a large potential for increasing the production and serbia-business.comits exports which makes it an attractive target of perspective investments by Italian companies dealing in agricultural machines. Moreover many Serbian companies are a still public or mixed company which means good opportunities of buyout/privatization actions. At present over 200 farms and 100 food processing industries are still on the privatization list.
Analyzing the perspectives of the different agricultural and food processing sectors, animal breeding and meat production/processing industry is by far one of the most promising subsectors. Despite the decreasing purchase power of the consumers and the dramatic decline experienced by this industry in the last 15 years, this sector has a long tradition of high quality production and the right potential for becoming a fast growing and high quality, competitive export industry after the completion of the actual privatization process.
Modern economical reforms are providing increased stability and the suitable ground required for improving the lifestyle of the population. On the other hand, modernization and innovation are mandatory for this sector, since many companies still use old plants and obsolete production systems. So there are good opportunities also for manufacturers of machines and technologies. Other potentially interesting sectors are: fruit and vegetable processing industry, mineral waters and soft drinks industry and snail breeding industry.
Thanks to the high quality and quantity of Serbian fruits production and to the growing international market demand for these products, valuable perspectives have been recently outlined for the fruit processing industry presently offering fruit juices, juice concentrates, fruit-based products with or without added sugar, semi processed fruit material with no added sugar and frozen fruits. Another fast growing industry is the soft drinks one producing juices, carbonated drinks and mineral waters.
However, differently than in the rest of the world where this business is concentrated in the hands of a few big industrial groups, in Serbia this industry is distinguished by the presence of many small companies. Serbian soft drinks consumption is growing on average by 15% every year while mineral water consumption is growing on average by 5% every year. Snail breeding has undergone a significant growth due to its high revenue level as compared to the low initial investment.