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Serbian farmers are still too far from IPARD funds

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The Government of Serbia announced that the criteria for access to IPARD funds of the European Union, which are non-refundable and intended for farmers, have been revised. The Ministry of Agriculture did not answer New Economy’s questions about whether the situation regarding the use of IPARD funds in Serbia has improved, considering that farmers have been complaining about the complexity of the procedures for years, while the competent authorities evaluate the progress in that area in the media as “positive”.

IPARD funds are not sufficiently available to Serbian farmers, fruit growers, livestock farmers, they do not have enough administrative knowledge and capacity to withdraw these funds, which is why Serbia has been an infamous record holder in relation to their utilization for years.

The representatives of the EU previously emphasized that Serbia will have to implement more transparent public procurements, so that the money intended for subsidies is used more efficiently and does not remain unspent. EU representatives then emphasized that our country still does not have a sufficiently developed and transparent way to effectively use the money from those funds. In addition, it lacks a system for distributing that money.

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In March, the new economy sent questions to the Ministry of Agriculture regarding what will be made easier for domestic producers when applying for IPARD, but we have’nt received an answer to date. The latest news regarding IPARD was announced by the Minister of Agriculture, Jelena Tanasković, as a guest on Radio and Television of Serbia (RTS), who asked the European Commission to extend the deadline for spending money from IPARD funds for Serbian farmers, so that 30 million euros of grants do not would remain unused.

Extending the deadline by one year would allow Serbia to fully use the remaining 158.5 million euros from the IPARD 2 program, stated Minister Tanasković after a meeting in Brussels with European Commissioner for Agriculture Januš Vojcehovski. The minister emphasized that Serbia has spent 42 million so far, and another 80 million is planned for the end of the year. If Serbia does not get an extension, the rest of the funds will remain unused and will have to be returned to the European Union authorities.

Tanasković pointed out that the European Commission showed its willingness to respond positively to Serbia’s request for a one-year extension, so that farmers could use the funds that the European Union gave to Serbia.

As Božo Joković from the “Our Fruit” cooperative in Arilje explained to us, fruit growers who live and work south of the Sava and Danube in Serbia have the problem that their access to IPARD funds depends on the size of the property on which they grow fruit. Serbia still has an infamous record regarding the use of IPARD funds, by far the least amount of money used for agriculture among all the countries to which this scheme is available.

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Sanja Bugarski, from the Federation of Associations of Cattle Breeders added: “Also due to the absence of an agrarian policy, which is sustainable and takes all the necessary steps to improve the environment for this production to survive, producers massively give up on this branch, so IPARD is not an option for farmers,” added Bugarski.

The current president of Serbia, Aleksandar Vučić, also spoke about how we should use the IPARD funds, back in 2016, and was reported by Nedeljnik Vreme. He then recalled that at the end of 2015, a request was submitted for the management of IPARD funds. “These are the funds of the European Union intended for agriculture and rural development in order to enable the use of the already allocated 35 million euros out of a total of 175 million foreseen until 2020,” said Vučić.

Raspberry, or as it is often called “Serbian red gold”, last year had a record price of up to 600 dinars, but a good part of that crop remained unsold in domestic refrigerators, because the export price fell in the meantime. As a result, part of the next year’s crop has still not been paid to many raspberry growers, so a better approach to IPARD might somewhat ease the current situation when many of them are thinking about stopping or reducing production.


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