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March 27, 1995
. Vreme News Digest Agency No 182
The Sowing Season

Farmers Subsidize the State

by Dimitrije Boarov

The spring sowing season is about to start, and so have protest gatherings by the farmers. Zoran Malenovic, president of the trade union rallying 50,000 people employed in state-owned agribusinesses, said at the protest meeting of the union's representatives in the Trade Union Hall on Tuesday, 21 March that the Serbian Government had fulfilled only 10% of its promises and that it had transferred all responsibility to agricultural firms. President of the Independent Trade Union of Farmers in Serbia Djordje Garabandic told VREME that we have reached a paradoxical situation, such as can't be found anywhere in the world - that the farmers must subsidize the state. Garabandic said that the farmers had never had it worse and that the present situation was far worse than during the days of the compulsory buy-up (after WW II, when the Communists took over power), because then only rich farmers were ruined, whereas now all were being ruined. After three years of losses, the farmers have to face the sowing season without credit and without their own money, because their savings have been spent.

Serbian Minister of Agriculture Ivko Djonovic said that the Government had decided to support the sowing with 240 million dinars. Agricultural experts claim that 850 million dinars' credit are needed for the spring works. The problem lies in the fact that there are no "real sources of money", so that the initial 120 million dinars which were released for special-purpose credit for agriculture three weeks ago, raised the price of the German Mark from 180 to 220 dinars. Djonovic said that commercial banks weren't interested in investing in agriculture because the turnover took a long time, and allegedly, there won't be any money for the sowing from the primary issue. He failed to admit that there wasn't any profit in foodstuffs, and that the banking system was without money. This was done indirectly by Serbian Government Vice-PM Slobodan Radulovic during the protest meeting in the Trade Union Hall, when he said that 800 million dinars were tied up in food stocks. The wheat stocks are estimated at 300 million dinars, sugar and cooking oil at 150 million dinars, wine at 200 million dinars, while other agricultural stocks accounted for 150 million dinars. He too, didn't explain why the state didn't get rid of these stocks on time, why export permits weren't issued on time, why agricultural exporters who are not controlled by the state weren't approved compensation imports with favorable customs duties, etc.

During a recent meeting between Djonovic and Radulovic (the government duo for questions pertaining to the sowing season) and directors of agri-businesses in Vojvodina, Slavko Doroslovacki of PIK "Becej" said that the shortage of money was such that he didn't know how 5,000 hectares would be sown, and that there weren't any goods which could be sold to give the workers their salaries which were three months late. Losses are being incurred with milk, meat and wheat. Pesticides etc. have gone up by 33%-83%, while prices for agricultural products have remained the same. Fuel coupons cover less than 40% of the needs, while the price of diesel follows black market trends.

Djordje Garabandic claims that farmers who have fields 14 km away from the village can only go and look at them, with the coupons they have, and recalled from experience that fuel could be bought with every tenth coupon. Parastate partners don't pay for the goods they take over from the farmers for three months, but the state charges default interest on taxes. He believes that the little money that the state gives out as social aid to needy citizens is higher than the income of individual farmers. Social cases in the city don't have to work, but the peasantry which has become the biggest social case in Serbia, still have to sow.

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