Serbia Dismisses Farmers’ Protest Against Yield-Based Subsidies

Serbian police kept hundreds of farmers from protesting in Belgrade against new subsidies that benefit higher-yielding producers rather than big landowners.

Traffic was blocked in at least four municipalities in the northern Vojvodina province, Serbia’s breadbasket, as police prevented demonstrators from driving tractors to a Belgrade rally against this week’s change, Interior Ministry spokeswoman Zeljka Avric said in a telephone interview from Sremska Mitrovica, 80 kilometers (50 miles) northwest of Belgrade.

“The new system is much better for stimulating bigger production,” said Agriculture Minister Dusan Petrovic. “We have to award those who can produce more.”

The subsidies will be applied to total farmland of 1.5 million hectares from 1.024 million hectares previously, Petrovic said at a business forum in Belgrade.

Serbia has sought to improve productivity of its agriculture and boost food exports. According to its Statistical Office, the average yields of 5.4 tons of corn and 4.25 tons of wheat per hectare (2.47 acres) are among the lowest in Europe.

Previously, the state approved 14,000 dinars ($167.6) per hectare in annual support for farmers with up to 100 hectares of farmland.

The new policy awards 1,000 dinars per ton of wheat, corn, rye or barley produced, 20,000 dinars per ton of tobacco leaves, 3,000 dinars per ton of sunflower seeds and 500 dinars per ton of sugar beet.

With assistance from: Gordana Filipovic in Belgrade

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