Serbia Wheat: Fertilizers Use Falls Sharply

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Nov 18, 2022 | Agricultural Markets

Reading time: 2 minute

Since the Wheat crop is not irrigated in Serbia, Wheat production depends upon winter and spring weather conditions. Winter temperatures were not extremely low, and there was enough snow coverage to protect the Wheat during the winter. Spring conditions were favorable for Wheat maturity with enough moisture and sun. 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 MY2022/23, the cost of seeds has increased by about 60 percent.

Due to the lack of funds, Serbian farmers usually use less than half of the chemical fertilizers that farmers in developed countries use. This year because of the extreme increase in the price of mineral fertilizers, Serbian farmers were likely to use even fewer mineral fertilizers than in previous years.

This combined with the low use of certified seeds can reduce crop yields by up to 10 percent in MY2022/23. From 2016 to 2021, 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 MY2021/22, fertilizer imports are 30 percent lower than in previous years.

In MY2022/23, Wheat will be cultivated on approximately 630,000 HA in Serbia, 6 percent higher than the previous year. With an average yield of 4.2 MT/HA, the total production in MY2022/23 may reach over 2.6 MMT. In MY2021/22, Serbian Wheat production was at a record high of 3 million MT. This is sufficient to meet domestic needs of 1.7 MMT, leaving a surplus of 1.6 MMT of Wheat available for export. In 2020/21, Serbia’s Wheat exports reached 2 MMT, while MY2021/22’s Wheat export was estimated at 1.6 MMT. However, due to the Wheat export ban, Serbia’s Wheat exports will probably be at least 25 percent lower.

Serbian Wheat Consumption and Trade

Serbia’s MY2021/22 Wheat domestic consumption was estimated at approximately 2 MMT. Per capita consumption of Wheat is estimated at 180 kg, which is significantly higher than consumption levels 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. Feed consumption, primarily for cattle, ranges between 250,000-600,000 MT, depending on the crop quality in a given year. Lower-quality Wheat goes to cattle feed.

There are approximately 550 Wheat silos (of various sizes) in Serbia owned by milling companies, grain traders, and farmer cooperatives, with a total capacity of 4.2 MMT. Serbia’s Wheat milling capacity is estimated at 2.5 MMT, with 70 percent currently utilized. There are 120 industrial bread production facilities and bakeries, with an annual capacity of approximately 1.5 MMT. Serbia has six large companies involved in pasta production and over 600 small private pasta producers.

As of March 2022, Serbia had approximately 1.2 MMT of Wheat available. Domestic consumption is estimated at 400,000 MT, leaving nearly 800,000 MT of Wheat for export. Before the ban, Serbia was expected to export approximately 1.6 MMT of Wheat in MY2020/21, leading to low ending stocks for the first time in several years. Small producers usually sell their crops to traders and milling companies immediately after the harvest. Serbia primarily exports Wheat and Wheat flour to Romania, Italy, Kosovo, Albania, North Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Montenegro. According to AgFlow data, Serbia exported 74,300 MT of Wheat to Romania in Jan-Nov 2022.

Other sources: USDA

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