Extremely high temperatures have caused premature ripening and harvesting of wheat and seriously threatened corn and other crops, experts warn. According to initial estimates, the damage caused by drought is estimated at 2.1 billion dollars, said an expert of the Serbian Chamber of Commerce, Vojislav Stankovic. At a meeting in the Serbian Chamber of Commerce the need to invest in irrigation system has been pointed out if the state expects even better revenues from agriculture. Jelena Milenkovic has more.
Drought has caused substantial damage to agriculture, which can easily be declared a natural disaster. According to initial estimates, crop production will be halved. Most affected are corn, sugar beet, and soybean crops, and even sunflower, which is known to endure almost any weather conditions. Farmers have expressed their concerns since this situation will affect the price and supply of fodder. According to Stankovic, it is necessary to invest in the construction of irrigation systems. The amount needed is about 2 billion dollars, which is a large sum, but at the same time, it is a good investment, which would reduce the risk to farmers, especially in periods of extreme drought. As Stankovic said, only 200,000 hectares in Serbia, or less than 5% of the total of 4.2 million hectares are under irrigation at the moment. In Europe and the world, this percentage is much higher.
Advisor to the President of the Serbian Chamber of Commerce stated that lower yields will inevitably affect the prices of basic agricultural products, primarily flour, oil, and sugar, as well as milk and meat. He said that there is no reason for concern, that there will be enough food for the domestic market, but reduced yields may affect exports. The government, however, has the tools to protect consumers and cushion the effect of increased prices, and enable orderly supply of basic foods at affordable prices. Last year's stock quantities amount to about 100,000 tons of sugar, 60,000 tons of edible oil, and 300,000 tons of wheat.
The total gross value of agricultural production in 2011 amounted to 6.4 billion dollars, with only one third being a share of livestock. Therefore, lower revenues can be expected. The dominant crop is maize, which suffered major damage caused by drought and its share is about 24%, noted Stankovic. He stressed that the state is currently unable to financially cover draught-induced damage. Some forms of assistance to farmers are exemption from paying taxes on the cadastral income and the deferral of subsidized agricultural loans. He also pointed out that farmers have not shown much interest in crop insurance, although the Government offered 40% insurance reimbursement. Increasingly extreme weather conditions and the consequences inflicted upon the Serbian agriculture in the last twelve years should serve as an example to everyone, especially the agricultural policy makers, and producers to protect crops and agricultural production.