Serbia apples Vojvodina

Freshly harvested Serbian apples ready for export

UPDATE — Serbian apple exports to Russia have restarted. The news story below is no longer up to date.

Click here to read more: Serbia resumes apple exports to Russia

Trucks carrying Serbian apples can no longer cross into Russia, one of the country’s most important fruit export markets, as a result of disruption caused by the war in Ukraine.

Gojko Zagorac, president of trade association Serbia Does Apples and development director at producer-exporter Verda Vivo, told Fruitnet the problem was a serious one for his country’s export trade and indeed for importers and buyers in Russia.

Serbia remains hugely reliant on the Russian Federation for its apple exports. In 2020, according to ITC, more than 75 per cent of its 173,000-tonne apple export deal went to that one market, a trade with a value of more than US$105m.

“In the first five days [of the conflict] we stopped exports of apples to Russia,” Zagorac reveals. “All the agencies which are giving us insurance for the invoices to our Russian partners stopped doing so, so it is also very problematic.”

The impasse has come as a shock to Serbia’s exporters, although they were already fully aware of their dependence on Russia as a market. “For all of us it was a lot of information to take in,” Zagorac admits. “We didn’t know that [the war] would start and a lot of trucks were in transit to Russia last Thursday when it started.”

Payment problems

As economic sanctions have been introduced, the Russian market’s ability to purchase has reportedly been diminished. “On the other side we have some problems with payments from the Russian side because of Swift and some other things,” Zagorac continues.

“So at the moment we are not exporting – from Serbia generally we cancelled trucks to Russia, and we are expecting some news from their side to see what we will do. We all hope that the problems with Ukraine and this war will end as soon as possible. But we don’t know.”

But he adds: “Of course, if it restarts, then it will not be the same volume that we had ten days or two weeks ago.”