Who to ask for advice if you don’t have the help of a consultant? What are the characteristics of mountain farms? Can works begin before incentives are officially approved? Interested farmers had the opportunity to ask these and other specific questions during today’s info session about the IPARD program, and Measure 1 was the most discussed topic for which the call is open until May 24.

It was also discussed what exactly Measure 1 entails and for whom it is intended, and experts from the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Water Management spoke about it – Rastko Cenić (on behalf of the IPARD Managing Authority), Dejan Cerovina, Biljana Isaković and Nataša Pantić (on behalf of the Directorate for Agrarian Payments), as well as Laslo Arendaš, Program Manager in the Delegation of the European Union in Serbia.

Arendaš said that the EU has allocated EUR 288 million for farmers in Serbia, for the third cycle of the IPARD program, and with the co-financing of the state, the total amount of funds reaches about EUR 380 million of support.

He explained that a total of 13 measures are available to the countries participating in the program, as well as that each country chooses which measures to implement. Serbia implements IPARD through 7 measures – four that were available in the previous cycle, and three more, which are in the process of accreditation.

“The benefits of the IPARD program in Serbia are unquestionable. You make an investment, and you still get a refund for that investment – and not through loans or credits, but in the form of grants”, he said.

Nataša Pantić pointed out that the Ministry used the previous experiences to simplify the application system as much as possible in the current IPARD cycle, to speed up the process and facilitate farmers’ access to EU funds.

She emphasized a good self-assessment as the first important step for applicants and pointed out that one of the common mistakes of farmers is submitting incomplete project documentation.

“The minimum support can be EUR 20,000, and the maximum amount can reach EUR 1 million. Within the IPARD III program period, one user can receive a maximum of two million euros of support,” reminded Rastko Cenić.

He added that the support of 60 percent of return of investments are investments realized in mountainous areas, 70 percent is the support for young farmers, certified organic producers of primary agricultural products, and an additional 10 percent is received for investments in renewable energy sources and waste management.

Cenić reminded that EUR 41 million were allocated only for the First public call, which is open until May, and that several more calls should be announced by the end of the year.

Dejan Cerovina, in charge of on-site control, has a good insight into what the situation “on the ground” looks like. Therefore, he advised all users of IPARD funds to give authorization to a family member who is familiar with the business, bearing in mind that time is lost and the process is prolonged, if the farm owner is not present at the time when the regular control should be performed.

Biljana Isaković also gave some useful tips. In particular, she drew attention to the fact that applicants often make mistakes because they  use the middle exchange rate of euro in Serbia, instead of the one prescribed by the European Commission on a given day, and they also enter the wrong reference number, etc.

The interlocutors concluded that interested farmers, who have doubts, can obtain information from the website of the Ministry of Agriculture, and they should also feel free to send all their questions/inquiries to the email address ipard.info@minpolj.gov.rs

Also, agricultural extension service is at their disposal, available in many cities throughout Serbia.

Such free workshops will soon be available to farmers in Niš (March 26) and Novi Sad (April 5), for which you can register via the following LINK.