Small pig farms are being shut down across Serbia as farmers fail to make ends meet amid soaring production costs and price caps introduced by the government.
In July, the Serbian government introduced price ceilings in the pork and poultry markets. The Ministry of Agriculture explained that this step was needed to constrain food inflation.
The average price is set at 260 dinars per kg ($ 2.27). This figure is twice as high as the free market’s price as of early 2022, but still, some farmers find themselves in a challenging financial situation.
The government’s decision to introduce price caps sparked criticism among farmers and politicians.
Vladimir Kovačević, president of the Serbian political party New Party, warned that soon, only cheap frozen imported pork will be found on the grocery shelves in the country. “The right and the effective measure would be to offer cheap corn from Serbia’s commodity reserves to pig fatteners,” Kovačević said, adding that alternatively, the pork price could be tied to the corn price to avoid disparities between the rise in price and production costs.
The price caps, Kovačević said, “just incur losses to those [pig farmers] that are less important, pushing them to bankruptcy, so there will only be imported meat in Serbia”.
To avoid similar situations in the future, Serbia could consider allowing GMO production. Kovačević estimated that Serbia imports meat grown with GMO feed but prohibits farms from applying this technology, though it secures way better harvests.
If this trend of importing piglets from Europe continues, we will be saving jobs of Spanish, Polish, Dutch, German and Belgian farmers, but losing jobs in our country
Vitomir Vidović, a Serbian pig farm owner, told Euronews Serbia that the pig industry in the EU faces oversupply due to lower pork export to China, which impacts the Serbian market. He explained that pig farmers from Western Europe now supply piglets to the Serbian market, threatening local businesses.
“If this trend of importing piglets from Europe continues, we will be saving jobs of Spanish, Polish, Dutch, German and Belgian farmers, but losing jobs in our country,” Vidović warned.
Small farms in Serbia are being shut down due to unfavourable market conditions, agreed Vladislav Višnjić, production manager of the Mistral komerc farm in Hrtkovci.
On the other hand, some companies are confident the current meat price is justified. Milenko Đurđević, an owner of Serbian meat processing company Industria Mesa Đurđević, told Euronews Serbia that farmers should be more than satisfied with the price offered by the government.
“If anyone should complain, it should be the customers because our meat is now perhaps the most expensive in the region,” Đurđević believes.