By Olga Rosca
The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) expect Serbia to benefit from its membership of the International Grains Council (IGC).
Serbia became a full member of the body at the beginning of the month, joining the world’s largest grain producers, including the United States of America and the European Union. The EBRD and FAO supported the application and welcomed the membership.
“This is a major step towards the full integration of Serbia into international markets,” said EBRD Regional Head of Agribusiness, Central and South-Eastern Europe, Miljan Zdrale. “The country is already a major regional exporter thanks to the quality of its grain and its central position on pan-European transport links. IGC membership will now provide a further boost.”
The Council’s goals are to advance international cooperation in the grain trade and to improve market transparency.
With the support of FAO and the EBRD, the Serbian Grain Association and the government have strengthened Serbia’s position as a major producer and exporter of grain and oilseeds in recent years.
The country produced 7.5 million tonnes of maize and 2.5 million tonnes of wheat in the 2019-20 marketing year. It exports on average 2.5 million tonnes of maize each year.
FAO Investment Centre Service Chief, Wafaa El Khoury pointed to the importance of regularly bringing public and private players together to discuss sector-specific issues.
“This frequent dialogue has helped to resolve bottlenecks, whether in infrastructure, trade or export requirements, and to improve efficiency,” she said.
“Thanks to continued dialogue, Serbia has been able to harmonise phytosanitary standards with international quality standards and open up new markets, most notably in Egypt,” she added.
Serbia’s IGC membership comes as the world is in the grip of the coronavirus pandemic. Keeping food supply chains open is a priority. The strong links that the EBRD and FAO have forged with the Serbian Grain Association are a sound foundation for navigating these challenging times.
In this situation, continued investment – from modernising irrigation systems to increasing grain storage capacity – and policy dialogue between the public and the private sectors are as important as ever.
The Serbian Grain Association – comprising grain producers and exporters – has increased its membership and visibility in recent years thanks to a new website, a monthly e-newsletter and participation in major international grain events.
FAO and the EBRD arranged for the Association to attend the Black Sea Grain Conference in Kyiv alongside grain-producing countries such as Kazakhstan, Russia and Ukraine.
The Association also twice attended Global Grain Geneva – Europe’s largest annual meeting of the grain industry – to promote Serbia’s offering. The EBRD and FAO helped organise a roundtable about Serbia’s grain sector during the 2018 meeting.
Last year, the country hosted the first Serbia Grain Conference, which attracted 200 grain and oilseed industry insiders from Serbia and abroad.
The EBRD and FAO hope that temporary export limitations due to COVID-19 will soon be lifted to allow Serbia to fully realise the potential of its agriculture sector and help ensure regional food security in the spirit of international cooperation.