Recommendations of the Ministry of Agriculture for improving the organic production

The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Water Management, which is in charge of this area in line with the Law on Organic Production, is tasked with establishing a functional system of organic farming.

Setting up such a system requires a serious of diverse activities and efforts on various levels, bearing in mind that, along with the producers, this complex system also includes the control organizations, inspection services, line authority for organic farming and the advisory sector. For this reason, together with the organic sector stakeholders the Ministry designed the Organic Production Development Plan which was adopted in August 2018 as an integral part of the National program of rural development ("Official Gazette  RS" No. 60/18).

The purpose of this document is to recognize the obstacles that stand in the way of intensive development of organic production in our country and define the measures and activities to overcome them, given that, in spite of the fact that Serbia has favorable natural conditions for developing this form of agricultural production, the share of land used for organic farming has still not reached a satisfactory level.

One of the goals of the Organic Production Development Plan is the continuous harmonization of regulations in this field. In this regard, the Ministry created a proposal for a twinning project, which was approved by the European Commission in 2017. The goal of this project is to strengthen the capacities for the implementation and further development of legislation in the field of organic production and the quality policy of agricultural and food products.

Together with the experts engaged within this project, we developed the Draft Rulebook on amendments to the Rulebook on Control and Certification in Organic Production and Methods, whose adoption is expected this year.

The amendments to this Rulebook should highly improve the organic production – among other things, it will prescribe in more detail the manner of performing control over organic producers, as well as the measures taken in case there are any determined irregularities in the manner of performing organic production. The Rulebook will also govern an entirely new area related to organic production of wine and prescribe the technological processing procedures, as well as the products and substances used in organic production of wine. The amendments to the Rulebook will also review the list of active substances found in plant protection agents, allowed in organic production. This will contribute towards expanding the list of plant protection agents suitable for organic production, which was highlighted as one of the significant problems faced by organic producers at round tables organized over the previous period.

With the aim of more intensive development of organic production, the plans for next year include the development of a new model for subsidizing organic production, all in line with the amendments to the Law on Incentives for Agriculture and Rural Development. The new model will take into account various amounts of incentives per hectare depending on the type of agricultural production.

Another obstacle for organic producers that was noted within round tables is the fact that the procedures in organic production require extensive documentation. Hence, within the project Private sector Development in Serbia (PSD) supported by German Development Cooperation GIZ and implemented in cooperation with the Ministry of Agriculture, the organic producers were provided free access to a software enabling entry of data into a digital database and regular digital updating, thus reducing the time and energy they invested so far in managing their records.

Additionally, in order to provide support to organic producers with documentation required for organic production, this year the Ministry stipulated the organization of trainings for advisors in 23 Agricultural advisory and expert service offices in Serbia.

To facilitate easier placement of organic products towards consumers, the Ministry plans to once again organize Organic Food Show at the Agricultural Fair in Novi Sad, enabling organic producers with certified organic products to present their products free of charge.