News & Insights

Agro Belgrade: The ABCs of Agriculture in One Place

Five men present on a panel with Agro-Belgrade banners

Despite Serbia’s numerous comparative advantages in fruit and vegetable (F&V) production, and significant investments made in the agricultural industry over recent years, there is still plenty of room to grow! Speeding a country’s transformation from traditional to professional agriculture requires targeted and continued effort over a long period.

In the agricultural sector, professionalization is generally led by companies, entrepreneurs, and young people who take risks and approach agriculture as a business venture. These enterprising individuals usually gather knowledge about recent market trends, food standards and new technologies through a combination of self-initiative, personal relationships and attending major industry trade fairs and events.

Given prohibitively high costs associated with some global trade shows, only a small segment of the industry is able to attend. This leaves many traditional producers out of touch with important industry-wide issues and topics, such as modern production practices, food safety and standards, market trends and export opportunities, and the latest technologies and innovations.

Agro Belgrade for accelerated development

USAID’s Competitive Economy Project supported Agro Belgrade (the first international, specialized trade fair for F&V and wine in Serbia), targeting the most promising export sectors with high investment potential. The goal was to create a new professional event where industry and the broader (Serbian and regional) public could learn about the latest trends in the F&V industry, new technologies and other key topics. 

Most importantly, the event had to be a long-term, sustainable platform for facilitating business connections, where regional producers would find opportunities to directly engage local and international buyers, distributors and retailers.

Agro Belgrade (January 31-February 2, 2020 at Belgrade Fair grounds) was successfully organized through the collaborative efforts of USAID’s Competitive Economy Project, the Ministry of Agriculture, and the City of Belgrade.

USAID Serbia CSS Project Chief of Party presents before media crowd at Agro-Belgrade event
“The primary idea behind the event was to connect producers and industry experts to exchange ideas and accelerate of the fruit and vegetable industry in Serbia and wider region. During previous years, working with a large number of sector stakeholders, we realized that the agricultural scene in Serbia was rapidly changing to meet the standards and expectations of international markets. Through Agro Belgrade, our aim was to prepare and educate F&V producers and smallholder farmers to increase exports of high-value processed fruit and vegetables products. We wanted to encourage participants to expand production in line with internationally recognized food standards, including organic, and ultimately increase exports of Serbian fruit and vegetables to global markets,” said Vladimir Živanović, General Manager of Top Events Team, organizer of the event.

Exhibitors, conference and B2B networking

Although designed as a smaller, targeted trade fair, more than 35,000 visitors and 500 exhibitors attended the three-day event—demonstrating its necessity. Attendees included F&V producers and purchasers, cooperatives and association members, agricultural equipment and machinery manufacturers, seed houses and nursery representatives, IT firms, retail chains and a variety of industry experts. The event’s conference program and business-to-business (B2B) networking meetings enabled producers and companies to establish contacts with leading retailers and manufacturers across the entire region.

The associated conference sessions focused on pressing industry-wide issues that attracted substantial crowds. Leading industry experts and practitioners discussed: the latest trends in the food industry; Serbia’s export perspectives and positioning on the global market; inspection procedures related to food safety and export procedures; future prospects of organic production; available and upcoming financing options for agribusinesses; the  current state of the agrarian workforce; successful integrative business models for associations and cooperatives; and market opportunities for berry producers (in addition to other topics).

Upshot of businesses presenting their fruits, vegetables and wines at Agro Belgrade fair

Exhibitors, conference and B2B networking

Although designed as a smaller, targeted trade fair, more than 35,000 visitors and 500 exhibitors attended the three-day event—demonstrating its necessity. Attendees included F&V producers and purchasers, cooperatives and association members, agricultural equipment and machinery manufacturers, seed houses and nursery representatives, IT firms, retail chains and a variety of industry experts. The event’s conference program and business-to-business (B2B) networking meetings enabled producers and companies to establish contacts with leading retailers and manufacturers across the entire region.

The associated conference sessions focused on pressing industry-wide issues that attracted substantial crowds. Leading industry experts and practitioners discussed: the latest trends in the food industry; Serbia’s export perspectives and positioning on the global market; inspection procedures related to food safety and export procedures; future prospects of organic production; available and upcoming financing options for agribusinesses; the  current state of the agrarian workforce; successful integrative business models for associations and cooperatives; and market opportunities for berry producers (in addition to other topics).

“We will definitely come back next year”

Aleksandar Jalšić, owner of a strawberry and pear farm from Sremska Mitrovica, was also very pleased with the outcome of the trade fair. “This was a great event with excellent organization. We managed to meet a remarkable number of quality contacts, and we expect to establish fruitful cooperation in the near future. I was particularly interested to learn about technological innovations and new equipment, as protecting our orchards is a crucial part of our production process. I was pleasantly surprised by the variety of panel sessions and expert debates. In particular, information shared about bank loans and other financing sources for expanding my business. We will definitely come back next year.”

Positive publicity leading up to and following the event generated extensive media coverage, with over 80 references across national, regional and local media outlets. A frequently-quoted statement by the Minister of Agriculture captured the spirit and purpose of the event:

“Agro Belgrade is a unique event format that encompasses the entire agricultural value chain - from advances in production and new technologies to product placement and marketing. The focus is on advancing agriculture systems via modern production practices and processing systems, which are necessary for positioning the image of Serbia in foreign markets and to take a more decisive step away from traditional growing to professional production,” stated Branislav Nedimović, the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Water Management.

In conclusion, the Minister added: “Next year, Agro Belgrade 2021, is well on the way to becoming a leading industry trade fair in the fields of fruit cultivation, viticulture and vegetable growing. It also represents a major new venue for the exchange of knowledge, best practices and new business opportunities for the Southeast Europe.”