Serbia: Wheat Replaces Meat
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Serbia’s Wheat crop MY2022/23 was not affected by the spring and summer drought because it was planted in the fall of 2022 and harvested in June 2023. Last year due to the extreme temperatures in May and the lack of precipitation, the Wheat and barley harvest started three weeks earlier than usual and lasted from May 20 until June 10. Due to the lower use of fertilizers and low precipitation during the crucial period when Wheat grows, the Wheat crop, despite a 5 percent increase in the area planted, is lower than in MY2021/22.
The planting area for Wheat for MY2022/23 was estimated at 630,000 HA. Overall production was 3.2 MMT, representing a 6 percent decrease compared to MY2021/22. Serbia has 1.8 MMT of Wheat available for export in MY2022/23, while domestic consumption is about 1.7 MMT. In MY2023/24, Wheat was cultivated on approximately 670,000 HA, 6.4 percent higher than the previous year. With an average yield of 4.9 MT/HA, the total production in MY2023/24 may reach over 3.5 MMT. This is sufficient to meet domestic needs of 1.7 MMT, leaving a surplus of 1.5 MMT of Wheat available for export.
The new harvest season will begin at the end of 2023. Since the Wheat crop is not irrigated, Wheat production depends upon winter and spring moisture. Wheat growing conditions are excellent at this point. Winter temperatures were not extremely low, and there was enough snow coverage to protect the Wheat during the winter. With favorable conditions during spring for Wheat maturity with enough moisture and sun, Serbia’s Wheat production in MY 2023/24 may record high volumes.
Three months remain until the new Wheat harvest starts. It is estimated that only 50 percent of the Wheat area was planted with certified seeds, while the remaining area was planted with seeds from the previous year. Most small Wheat farmers plant old seeds for their new crops. During MY2023/24, the cost of seeds has increased by 30-40 percent.
Due to the lack of funds, Serbian farmers usually use less than half of the chemical fertilizers used by farmers in developed countries. This year, because of the extreme increase in the price of mineral fertilizers, Serbian farmers will use even fewer mineral fertilizers than in previous years. This, combined with the low use of certified seeds, may reduce crop yields by up to 10 percent in MY2023/24.
From 2016 to 2022, Serbian farmers’ use of mineral fertilizers fell from 140 kg/HA to less than 50 kg/HA. Serbia usually imports around 800,000 MT of fertilizers annually from Russia, Ukraine, Croatia, Romania, and Hungary; however, due to high prices and problems with transportation in MY2022/23, fertilizer imports are 30 percent lower than in previous years. In MY2022/23, Serbia exported 489,367 MT of Wheat and 82,991 MT of Wheat flour from July 2022 to February 2023. According to AgFlow data, Serbia shipped 8,991 tons of Wheat to Romania in Q1 2023.
Wheat Consumption in Serbia
Serbia’s MY2022/23 Wheat total domestic consumption is estimated at approximately 2 MMT. Per capita Wheat consumption is estimated at 180 kg, significantly higher than consumption in most European countries. This is mainly the result of diet trends and low income leading to increased consumption of bread and pasta, replacing meat. The annual consumption of Wheat seeds is approximately 210,000 MT from domestic and imported seed sources.
Every year, seed companies in Serbia offer more than 70 varieties of Wheat planting seeds. Local seed producers supply more than 50 percent of the market. In the fall of 2022, the price of Wheat seeds was approximately 80 dinars/kg ($727/MT), 30 percent higher than in the fall of 2021 (60 dinars/kg ($550/MT)). Feed consumption, primarily for cattle, ranges between 250,000-600,000 MT, depending on the crop quality each year. Lower-quality Wheat goes to cattle feed.
Other sources: USDA
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