Beekeeping, as part of agriculture, brings benefits to a broader spectrum of agricultural activities, knowing that pollination can significantly contribute to higher vegetable and fruit yields. Serbia enjoys favourable conditions for beekeeping, allowing bees to collect nectar from various honey plants for as many as nine months a year.

According to associations of beekeepers, there are 980,000 beehives in Serbia. Around 30,000 households are engaged in honey production, while half of them are registered as beekeeping businesses. Honeybee farm Živković is one of them; a product of multi-generational family tradition, started by the family’s grandfather who used to produce honey for his family. In 2012, Zlatica and Boban Živković saw the opportunity to make honey production their main source of income and decided to intensify the production. They realised they can make a decent living off beekeeping, but they also learned that they had to make improvements to the way honey is produced.

“To stay relevant in beekeeping, you must educate yourself and follow the latest scientific findings. One cannot simply buy a huge beekeeping farm and expect major success. Continuous education, motivation, and above all commitment to beekeeping are prerequisites for success,” says Zlatica who oversees sales and marketing.

Determined to make beekeeping their main source of income, the Živkovićs try to keep pace with the latest innovations. That is why they snatch every opportunity to learn something new. As members of the local beekeeper’s association, they engage in study visits abroad where they share experience and learn more about other beekeepers’ practices. One such visit to Slovenia not only broadened their knowledge, but also gave them an idea how to link the tourist potential of the region they live in with beekeeping.

“We live in the visitor zone of Veliko Gradište, with many people visiting our farm and tasting our products. Hence, we decided to broaden our offer with farm tours and tasting sessions, and to offer API chamber inhalation,” says Zlatica.

Any opportunity to build up immunity arouses people’s interest, especially in time of the pandemic. One way to do so is through apitherapy, that is treatment and disease prevention using bee products.

Apitherapy chambers – specialized wooden chalets – rely on air from beehives. By moving around beehives, bees produce aerosols containing essential oils of propolis, honey, beeswax, royal jelly, bee bread, and other aromatic substances. These substances are released through beehives installed in chamber walls, and experts claim that inhaling them is beneficial for health.

“This is the first chamber of its kind in the entire Braničevo District,” says Boban Živković and adds that his family, in order to improve their business, takes advantage of all available incentives – “We received a grant for the chamber through an EU project, and we regularly apply for government incentives.”

Even though Serbia has favourable conditions for beekeeping, and support from the state is not lacking, it takes a lot of investment to achieve and maintain quality and remain competitive. That is why the Živkovićs, in an effort to provide the most diverse feed for their bees, own two trucks they use to transport the beehives to sunflower fields, 70 kilometres away from their home. Every other day they board a cable ferry at the Ram Fortress, cross the Danube, and go to Banat to take care of the bees. They realized that the quality is not enough for the market race; one must also continuously increase the product range.

“Our goal is not only to produce honey, but also to create new flavours which we present at fairs and offer them for tasting at our bee farm,” Zlatica notes.

Beekeepers in Serbia apply good beekeeping practices, in line with EU standards. However, it is hard for individual producers to find success because, among other things, it takes a lot of money to obtain the necessary certificates, so one of the solutions is to join forces with other beekeepers. Having recognised the importance of developing this particular sector of agriculture, and its high export potential, the Ministry of Agriculture works to increase incentives for beekeepers, who also benefit from various EU projects.

Evropska unija je donirala 230 miliona evra za poljoprivredu i bezbednost hrane u Srbiji od 2000. godine. Podizanje konkuretnosti, standarda bezbednosti hrane i čuvanja javnog zdravlja, poštovanje dobrobiti životinja i standarda zaštite životne sredine – glavni su pravci pomoći EU ovom sektoru.   IPARD (Instrument pretpristupne pomoći za ruralni razvoj) jeste vodeći program u ovoj oblasti, u okviru kog je za Srbiju izdvojeno 175 miliona evra u periodu između 2014. i 2020. godine, uz još 55 miliona evra nacionalnog sufinansiranja, a namenjen je poljoprivrednim proizvođačima.