Serbian Agriculture to Contract as Much as 4% on Lengthy Winter, Rainfall

According to the Serbian Chamber of Commerce, Serbia’s agriculture industry will probably shrink as much as 4 percent this year, more than estimated by the official Statistics Office, after a lengthy winter and heavy rainfall,reported “Kazakh-Zerno” IA with reference to the “Bloomberg“.
The contraction may be “as much as 6 percent to 8 percent if corn output falls,” Vojislav Stankovic, a researcher at the Belgrade-based chamber’s Agriculture Department, said yesterday in a telephone interview. The Statistics Office has estimated the shrinkage at between 2 percent and 3 percent. 

The industry, which accounts for 11 percent of Serbia’s economy, experienced zero growth in the year’s first quarter, according to official gross domestic product figures. The national wheat crop probably will be smaller than projected by the Statistics Office, according to Stankovic. 

“Due to long winter and heavy rains, fruit and vegetable production has already been hit,” he said. “Wheat output is already below expectations, while oilseeds, sugar beet and corn should all perform around their annual average yields.” 

Farmers are likely to harvest 1.5 million to 1.6 million metric tons of wheat, based on the chamber’s estimate of the area sown with the grain, according to Stankovic. The Statistics Office predicted a 1.9 million-ton crop less than a month ago, implying a decline of 8 percent from last year. 

Wheat prices surged in recent weeks on concern that Russia, where a drought is searing fields, might bar grain exports. The government unveiled a ban last week, helping to lift prices to $8.68 a bushel, the highest level in 23 months, for December- delivery wheat traded in Chicago. 

Corn Sowing 

More land in Serbia was planted with corn, sugar beet and oilseeds this year, and the crops probably will perform well, Stankovic said. 

Serbian agricultural output will be high enough this year to permit exports, according to Stankovic. The chamber estimates the value of outbound shipments at $1.95 billion to $2 billion, he said, aided by rising food prices. 

The Food Price Index maintained by the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization, which tracks global prices of meat, dairy, cereals, sugar, oils and fats, rose in July to the highest level since February. Serbian agricultural exports were worth $907.9 million in 2010’s first half, up 6.3 percent from a year earlier, while imports rose 5.6 percent to $491.4 million. 

“Imports will grow, because of lower production of fruit, vegetables, meat and milk, to $1.5 billion to $1.6 billion, leaving a surplus of $400 million to $500 million,” Stankovic said. 

While Serbia’s main export markets are Balkan countries such as Montenegro, its wheat and corn find buyers beyond the region. Serbian exporters of the grains “mainly sell to big traders,” said Zarko Galetin, head of the Novi Sad-based Commodity Exchange, citing Rotterdam-based agribusiness company Nidera and Cargill Inc.’s German unit.

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