Lebane, Surdulica and Vlasotince lead the initiative for rural development of Serbia

According to NALED's research conducted as part of the project "Better opportunities tailored to underdeveloped areas" less than a fifth of farmers from Surdulica, Vlasotinac and Leban are ready to improve their production. Due to the lack of market, lower prices of organic products and insufficient profitability, only 24% of producers would opt for organic production, which is one of the most promising global branches.

In order to help these producers catch up with the current trends in agriculture and to drive economic growth in their areas, NALED prepared an analysis with recommendations for the improvement of agriculture and rural development. This document was created as a result of mapping the needs of 185 farms from the areas of Surdulica, Vlasotinac and Leban, and was presented to the public at today's round table on measures to support the rural population held in Leskovac, with the representatives of the Ethno network, Original Serbia and associations for producers support.

- Agriculture represents an important segment of our economy, and we are especially proud of out three certified products - Leskovac ajvar, fried and grilled meat. From 2013 to the end of 2021, the city allocated 226 million dinars to support agricultural farms. So far, we have had 7,760 beneficiaries of incentives, and we allocate funds in December, when farmers are less active, so that they can plan activities for the next year in time - said, on this occasion, the mayor of Leskovac, Goran Cvetanović.

NALED's analysis showed that producers from the south of Serbia are mainly engaged in fruit growing, vegetable growing and honey production, and the key recommendations are aimed at the development of these sectors.

- Since as many as 52% of producers declared that they needed support for the procurement of machinery, the focus of the incentive program must be on investments in production and processing capacities. In order for producers from these regions to be able to enter foreign markets, they need to harmonize their products with the regulations of the countries in which they want to do business, which is why it is important to help with certification and standardization of production. Finally, to make their products recognizable, it is necessary to provide them with the support of experienced experts - said the executive director of NALED, Violeta Jovanović, and praised the city of Novi Sad, which has been awarding subsidies for organic production certification and geographical indication for years.

As it was pointed out, agriculture is one of the pillars of the domestic economy and participates in foreign trade with 1.6 billion euros. With adherence to NALED's recommendations, it could become a serious development opportunity for the rural population, especially for vulnerable categories. According to RZS data, only 27% of young people and almost 43% of women have jobs in rural areas, with around 17% of them employed as helping members of the household.

The cross-border cooperation project Better opportunities for underdeveloped areas is funded by the European Union and, in addition to three municipalities in Serbia, includes Staro Nagoričane and Kumanovo in North Macedonia, and is implemented by NALED in partnership with the women's association "Ruža" from Lebanon, the Management and Industrial Foundation research "MIR" from Skopje and the civil center "AktivUm" from Kumanov

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