Sustainable food production and consumption are essential; therefore, getting interests of producers and consumers in tune represents a win-win situation. How to achieve this – to ensure quality and food safety, while having good prices. These issues, particularly in the context of south Serbia, were discussed during an EU Info Network-hosted webinar, held on the occasion of World Food Day.

“South Serbia has a great potential for farming. This region was made for organic and safe food production, which is the goal of sustainable farming. Also, there are sparsely populated rural areas that are ideal for the production of healthy, organic food, and therefore, for the development of rural tourism,” said Srećko Vukašinović, Director of the Agriculture advisory services Niš.

There is a great potential for farming in south Serbia; what lacks are processing capacities, noted Milivoje Jovanović of ENECA, organisation which supports small producers to develop their business.

“ENECA has so far supported some 200 small enterprises dealing in processing of fruits and vegetables, meat, and meat products, as well as processing of milk and dairy. We received support through EU PRO programme to equip a “food hub“ of Fabrika dobre hrane in village Vrtište near Niš, and improve processing capacity, therefore enabling small producers to use that equipment and advisory services,” Milivoje Jovanović said.

BLACK GRASS from Vlasotince is one of the enterprises that relies on resources of Fabrika dobre hrane. Black grass produces savoury and sweet canned goods and is one of four family companies that carry the license to make the original Leskovac ajvar, the only Serbian product with protected geographical origin.

“When starting a business, everyone needs support. EU PRO, ENECA and other organisations are responsible for the development of my business to a large extent,” said Milan Petković, owner of Black grass.

There are numerous examples of small producers coming together and finding it easier to step into the market. The first agricultural and social cooperative in village Kamenica near Niš, works as a platform for employment of rural youth.

“When we first started with it, in Europe it was already a trend, promoting cooperatives as youth employment platforms and balanced and sustainable development. Jobs in agriculture, especially in south Serbia, are not attractive right now and they should be made more attractive to ensure there’s enough workforce. With investments in programmes such as workforce mobility, we can achieve this,” said Dejan Mitić, Director of the Kamenica cooperative.

Via EU PRO programme, numerous small enterprises in Serbia have in the previous period been granted funding to improve their business dealings. This form of EU support will be continued for micro and small enterprises in 99 local self-governments in the regions of Šumadija and west Serbia, and south and east Serbia, through EU PRO’s successor programme, EU PRO Plus.

Watch the webinar on EU in Serbia’s YT channel.