The programme on “Support to the Fruits and Berries Sector in the South of Serbia” (in the following referred to as the F&B Programme) was initiated in November 2010 with the overarching objective of “Sustainable economic growth and job creation by improved competitiveness and export of fruits and berries”. The main objective of the programme is to support improvement of productivity and quality of the fruits and berries sector (in the following the F&B sector) in the south of Serbia with a focus on education and training of extension service providers and producers, investments in the F&B sector, capacity building among producers, market initiatives, and improvement of post-harvest management, research and control.
The aim of the F&B Programme interventions is to increase producers’ income and employment in the entire value chain, thus contributing to reducing poverty and migration. The impacts are expected to include increased export of high quality fresh and processed fruit and berries, which should result in an increase in jobs and income. The programme has a specific focus on women and youth.
The total budget for the Danish support to the F&B Programme amounts to DKK 40 million and comprise two components: (1) Capacity building of producers/businesses and support for innovation, quality control and certification (DKK 11.5 million), and (2) an Investment Grant Scheme, a facility for financing investments in new crops, equipment and machinery, storage, processing and sales (DKK 17 million). The Investment Grant Scheme is co-financed with the Serbian government who contributes EUR 3.3 million, equivalent to approx. 60% of the total budget allocated for the grant scheme. The budget for operations (including TA), reviews, and contingencies is DKK 11.5 million.
The F&B Programme was originally planned as a four-year programme (expected to be completed in November 2014). However, due to slower than expected implementation of the support, the programme has been extended up to November 2016.
As part of the F&B Programme intervention, a value chain study was commissioned and completed in March 2012.
Below is presented a brief status on implementation progress within the two programme components.
Overall, the capacity building activities have been implemented as planned, with the exception of the planned support for establishment of mother plantations. The capacity building activities have covered:
- Training of producers and processors
- Training of advisory service and extension staff
- Study tours and marketing events in Serbia and abroad.
The capacity building events have been attended by a relatively large number of persons, both grant beneficiaries and non-beneficiaries. Some people have attended several training events, while others have attended only one or few events. An estimate from the F&B Programme office is that approximately 8,000 persons have attended the capacity building activities.
The Investment Grant Scheme
After serious initial challenges and delays, the grant component of the F&B Programme and the cooperation with the ministry and the DAP have been improved remarkably over the past three years. This was confirmed by all key stakeholders. In total, five Call for Applications (CFA) have been launched by the F&B Programme. A brief status on CFA1 through CFA5 as of 1 September 2015:
- CFA1 – completed and all approved beneficiaries had received their grants
- CFA2 – almost completed. All approved beneficiaries had received their grants, except one, who was in the process of payment approval
- CFA3 – almost completed. All approved beneficiaries had received their grants, except two of them, who had received an extension of the deadline for project realization until 30 September 2015
- CFA4 – most of the applications had been completed and disbursed. Two project were in the procedure of payment approval, and two beneficiaries were still in finishing projects with a deadline for completion by 30 September 2015
- CFA5 - most of the smaller projects were completed within the deadline of 31 July 2015.
The sum of already paid grants and grant commitments amounted to EUR 4,440,395. The total funds made available for grants by the Serbian and Danish governments total EUR 5,600,000. Unlike the situation in CFA 1 to CFA 4, there will not be sufficient grant funds available for all eligible projects from CFA5.
 In the scoring model for the grant application scheme, additional points are given to female and youth applicants. In Serbia, youth is defined as below 40 years old.
 Progress Report No. 9, Semi-Annual Report, 1 January to 30 June 2015.Top