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Challenges loom as Serbia grapples with declining milk production

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Milk, a staple food product in Serbia, is facing increasing scarcity, with a notable 20 percent decline in production during the fourth quarter of 2023 compared to the previous year.

Despite this concerning trend, the state appears to lack a comprehensive plan to address the issue, while major dairy companies seem indifferent as they believe they can manage without relying on domestic milk sources.

According to data from the Republic Institute of Statistics (RZS), cow’s milk production in dairies witnessed a significant 7.5 percent decrease in 2023 compared to the year before.

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Of particular concern is the sharp 21.3 percent decline in cow’s milk production observed in the last quarter of the previous year compared to the same period in 2022.

The latest agricultural census reveals that Serbia’s cattle population has dwindled to 725,408, marking a 17.7 percent decrease since 2018. Furthermore, RZS data as of December 1, 2023, indicates a 9.3 percent drop in the cattle count compared to the previous year. Over the longer term, from 2013 to 2022, the overall cattle numbers have plummeted by 18.2 percent.

Agroeconomic analyst ┼Żarko Galetin highlights the growing import dependency in food products, with milk standing out as a prime example.

“This is a concerning development for both experts and consumers alike, as we increasingly rely on imports for essential food items. Milk shortages are just one aspect of this broader issue, which also affects meat and other commodities,” Galetin notes.

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He underscores that the diminishing capacity of milking cows in the country, falling below 170,000 head, is a significant factor contributing to the shortage. Galetin emphasizes that without a concerted effort to address the challenges facing livestock farming, Serbia’s domestic milk production will continue to fall short of meeting the nation’s needs.

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