The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), with funding from Luxembourg, have been working with the Serbian government and the Serbian Union of Cooperatives to promote the development of cooperative organisations across the country’s agricultural sector.
Serbian farmers do not yet recognise cooperatives as beneficial for their businesses. Only a minority of farmers are members of agricultural cooperatives, and cooperative land accounts for only 17 percent of agricultural land in the country. Globally, however, cooperatives account for an estimated 50 percent of agricultural production.
To boost cooperatives in the country, the EBRD and FAO have been providing training to Serbian producers and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) on cooperative structures and financial sustainability. They are just over halfway through a series of seven roundtable meetings at various locations in Serbia. And since the recent passage of a law mandating audits for cooperatives, the two organisations have been providing counsel on guidelines and methods for conducting those audits.
Agricultural cooperatives are an efficient way of organising farmers and other agribusiness stakeholders, and countries such as Germany, France, and Italy offer glowing examples of how they can benefit farmers.
According to Miljan Zdrale, the EBRD’s regional head of agribusiness for central and south-eastern Europe, increased collaboration brings numerous advantages.
“Producers and processors organised in cooperatives are more likely to overcome bottlenecks and other obstacles to become more productive, efficient and ultimately more prepared to face the challenges of globalisation,” he said.
The tour of Serbia continues
The president of the Serbian Cooperative Union, Nikola Mihailovic, is adamant that cooperatives will play a central role in galvanising and strengthening Serbia’s agriculture industry.
“Public-private policy dialogue is key to agribusiness growth,” he said. “This is why we’re pleased to collaborate with FAO and the EBRD, and I’m sure the training, in particular, will prove invaluable to Serbian cooperatives and their members.”
The latest event, held in Niš in southern Serbia, gathered over 40 cooperative managers – as well as the minister for regional development, Milan Krkobabic – to discuss ongoing initiatives and new potential policy instruments to boost cooperative organisation among farmers and agricultural SMEs.
Having already visited five cities, the roundtable roadshow will continue to another two stops in Serbia. And later in the year, an assessment of agricultural cooperatives in Serbia will be conducted by FAO and the EBRD.
Original source: EBRD
Published on 28 June 2018