“I wanted to improve and modernise the production process. To get necessary funding, it seemed like a good idea to apply with IPARD,” says Dragiša Kovačević, sour cherry farmer from Ruma.

Twenty years ago, Dragiša inherited a piece of land from his grandfather and didn’t want to forsake it. He planted two thousand trees of sour cherry and as the trees grew and started bearing fruit, Dragiša started facing the same challenges many Serbian farmers are facing.

„Frost, hail, droughts, or rain and winds that are too strong, all give you reason for concern. And even if you manage to overcome all of them, then starlings start to feast on the fruit,” the farmer from Ruma says and points to an inventive solution – the so-called dragon, a contraption that rises above the trees, imitating movements of a large bird of prey, such as falcon, that scares the starlings away.

Now that each challenge has been ticked off and dealt with, the fruit needs picking, but there is a lack of manpower. Seasonal workers, especially ones that are dependable, are getting increasingly hard to find. This is when Dragiša came up with a yet another idea and purchased a machine harvester using EU funding, that is, securing them through IPARD.

Dragiša applied for funding in January of 2018 and the entire paperwork part took a year to complete. In January 2019, he already had his money reimbursed – 50 percent of the sum he had invested in new equipment.

„I am glad I made that decision. Cherries are now harvested more quickly and with less damage done to the fruit, the machine is reliable and replaces a considerable portion of manpower. We achieved the goal of lowering the cost of harvest. The financial assistance we received through IPARD has contributed substantially to improving thee business and raising the level of quality in every stage of the process.”

Many farmers are reluctant apply for incentives, IPARD included, because they shy away from bureaucracy. Dragiša, on the other hand, describes his experience as positive even in this aspect.

„The entire process took a year to complete and wasn’t complicated at all. Throughout that period, we received five or six field visits: it’s all doable, really. It’s easy to meet all requirements and I would encourage everyone to apply, because it makes a real difference.”

One year into this manner of harvesting, and Dragiša says that it already has a positive impact on the production, adding that his experience as whole is positive, too.

What is IPARD?

IPARD stands for the Instrument for pre-accession assistance for rural development. Its potential beneficiaries include individuals, owners of agricultural holdings and entrepreneurs, or business associations and cooperatives.

The minimum and maximum amounts of reimbursements vary, depending on the measure, ranging from 5,000 to 2,000,000 euros.

IPARD III (2021-2027), a fresh cycle of funding, is under preparation and once launched, it will secure additional funds for Serbian farmers.

More information about how to apply for IPARD is available here.

Since 2000, the European Union has donated 230 million euros for agriculture and food safety in Serbia. Raising competitiveness, food safety and public health standards, respect for animal welfare, and environmental standards are the main areas of EU assistance to this sector. IPARD (Instrument for pre-accession assistance for rural development) is the leading programme in this area, within which Serbia has been allocated with 175 million euros for the period 2014-2020, with additional 55 million euros of national co-funding, and it is intended for agricultural producers.