Serbian apple growers seek new markets amid Ukraine crisis

26 février 2024
ITC News

Serbia is a leading apple producer in southeast Europe. For over a decade, Russia was the top buyer of Serbian apples, reflecting high demand for quality fruit. Since the war in Ukraine limited access to that market, Serbian exporters are strategically expanding to other markets.

To bolster their efforts, the International Trade Centre (ITC) has brought selected Serbian companies to international trade fairs. These events improve their visibility and facilitates new business links. ITC is also working closely with selected small businesses on improving their digital assets and advancing their sustainability standards.

Pursuing new markets

In February, ITC brought 10 Serbian small businesses to exhibit at the Fruit Logistica Trade Fair in Berlin, Germany. The fair is a leading meeting place for agricultural businesses seeking new opportunities in fresh fruits. This was a valuable opportunity for the companies to exhibit their locally-grown fresh apples and other apple-based products.

The event succeeded at every level. The businesses networked with new buyers and partners, increased national visibility, and captured ideas and inspiration for market development and diversification.

Biljana Radivojevic manages MPM, a small company from the Sumadija region in central Serbia. For her, the event was both successful and motivating.

‘I’m so proud to represent my company at an international trade fair, along with big companies from Serbia at the national stand provided by ITC,’ she said.
‘I’m also taking away some important lessons. Firstly, it is of the utmost importance to prepare well before exhibiting at international fairs. Thanks to the ITC trainings we came here acquainted not only with useful logistical and practical information about the fair, but also with a strategy to attract new customers. Secondly, expanding to new European markets seemed to be rather complex if looked from the perspective of small companies. But it is not unattainable, especially if professional assistance is available, as it was in our case with support provided through the ITC’s Trade Promotion East project.’

Dejan Zecevic, the owner of Apple One, a small business from the Serbian capital Belgrade, said the event highlighted buyers’ interest in sustainability.

‘In my case, exhibiting at Fruit Logistica is an eye-opener, because I realized the importance of sustainability standards for diversifying export to new markets in the European Union,’ he said.


About the project

The Trade Promotion East (TPE) project focuses on the competitiveness and sustainable export growth of SMEs and improving the capacities of business support organizations (BSOs) to provide quality services to SMEs. It targets four selected countries – Albania and Serbia in the Balkans and Tajikistan and Uzbekistan in Central Asia. Agribusiness has been identified as a viable priority sector for assistance across all four countries given its significant potential for the social inclusion of vulnerable groups and its role in achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Fresh apples and sour cherries have been selected as the project’s focused product groups in Serbia considering the potential to export to global market and export readiness of SMEs.