J. Joksimović: EUR 175 million in grants to Agricultural Sector from the EU by 2020
June 29 2018 | Belgrade
Minister of European Integration Jadranka Joksimović and Head of EU Delegation to Serbia Sem Fabrizi, in the presence of Minister of Agriculture Branislav Nedimović, have signed today IPARD II - a Financial Agreement by which the EU has provided EUR 175 million in grants to Serbia for the enhancement of Serbian agriculture.
Joksimović has stressed that, with additional funds provided by the state, the agrarian sector will have EUR 230 million available, adding that the first contracts will be awarded to farmers during the next week.
"I am pleased that today we are realising an activity that was initiated four years ago, when the most important condition for initiating the process of obtaining accreditation for EU grants for agricultural development was to provide space and relocate the Directorate for Agrarian Payments from Šabac to Belgrade," Joksimović has told the press at the renovated premises of the Directorate.
She has stressed that the Financial Agreement opens up a "new page of Serbian agriculture" because, as she has said, Serbia and farmers are, for the first time ever, given the opportunity to use grants from European funds.
"This is the IPARD II Programme for the period from 2014 to 2020 worth EUR 175 million in grants from the EU, and, with the national contribution, the total amount of funds will amount to around EUR 230 million," Joksimović has emphasised.
She has said that the Ministry headed by her, as well as the Ministry of Agriculture and the EU Delegation to Serbia, have commenced the process of increasing visibility and informing of farmers on the areas where they can apply for funds from the IPARD Fund.
"In that first stage, there must be some pre-financing by stakeholders, but those funds will be returned to them after the process has been completed," the Minister has stressed.
According to her, with this Agreement, Serbia gets the opportunity to gradually align the Serbian agricultural policy with the EU policy, adding that this is a long, serious and challenging process.
However, as she has stressed, the experiences of the countries that became EU Member States in the most recent waves of enlargement indicate that farmers expressed the greatest scepticism before the accession, but that they had the most benefits from the membership during the initial yeas of EU membership. This will, she believes, also be the case in Serbia.
She has stated that the Agreement provides the opportunity not only to increase the competitiveness of Serbian agriculture - through modernisation of agricultural and food facilities, equipment renewal and overall modernisation, but also to achieve an equal territorial development. That will, as Joksimović has said, result in a solution to the biggest challenge, which also represents a big motivation - for people to stay in the countryside, and not only farmers, but also women and youth.
"With the new arrangements and new opportunities we now have, they can choose to stay and work in the countryside," Joksimović has said. With this, as she has pointed out, we initiate a new affirmation of agricultural production and the development of the agrarian sector in Serbia.
She has pointed out that 478 people have applied for IPARD funds so far, adding that she expects that the number of applications will be even greater in the coming period.
The Minister has specified that we must work together to raise the awareness of our people, help them prepare projects, so that they would be able to fully use the resources that we have at our disposal by 2020.
The Minister has underlined that the implementation of this Agreement is the result of teamwork between the Government, the Ministry of Agriculture and the EU Delegation to Serbia.
"This is a concrete matter, which shows why it is important to be in the process of European integration, as well as which opportunities we have, and these will only multiply as we progress on our European path," Joksimović has emphasised.
The Head of the EU Delegation to Serbia, Sem Fabrizi, has agreed with the Minister of European Integration that the Agreement is a result of teamwork, and has stated that the funds for the improvement of Serbian agriculture could reach EUR 400 million with co-financing by private entities.
"The conclusion of this Financial Agreement allows the public administration to conclude the first contracts and make the first payments to the Agricultural Sector," Fabrizi has said, adding that it should allow Serbian farmers to prepare for a competitive EU market.
Fabrizi has stressed the high potential of Serbian agriculture, and has added that 10% of GDP comes from agriculture, 20% of people are working in that sector, 50% of Serbian agricultural products are exported to the EU market, which has amounted to USD 1.5 billion in recent years.
Minister of Agriculture Branislav Nedimović has announced that the first contracts under this Agreement should be awarded on 5 July.
Nedimović has also pointed out the joint teamwork on the implementation of the Financial Agreement, and has stressed that the funds gained from the Agreement are envisaged for direct investments in equipment, machinery, and everything else that, according to him, reduces the processing costs and provides the added value.
"This is what will create a new wave in Serbian agriculture," Nedimović has said.
He has stated that almost 500 requests constitute an obligation for the Directorate for Agrarian Payments to process these requests as soon as possible.
Stating that the first contracts will be awarded to farmers during the next week, Nedimović has said that this is the first time that the EU assistance goes directly into the hands of Serbian citizens, while it has previously been provided to Serbian institutions and for infrastructure.
"This is also very important, yet this time our citizens will get the money directly into their pocket. This is serious indeed, and I think that it represents a turning point," Nedimović has said.
"We now have a big job to do, as we have actually opened only one door which, I hope, represents a door of better Serbian agriculture, so that we would have as larger share of the food industry as possible in the whole production system, the GDP, and so that the agriculture would assume the title of the industry supplier," Nedimović has concluded.