By Communications Chairman Stephen Cadogan.
MOST of the 52 agricultural communicators on the recent Agropress tour of Serbia seem to have fallen in love with the country and its people at first sight.
“The most impressive are the people of Serbia, living and working with great enthusiasm and sparks in their eyes,” said Anita Rozentale, a journalist from the Bauskas Dzive newspaper in Latvia.
Daiga Bitiniece, also from Latvia, enjoyed Serbia too, and both are big IFAJ fans after the tour, with Daiga saying Latvia should certainly join IFAJ.
But they were even more impressed by the great tour organisation work of the members of the Agropress Association of Agricultural Journalists.
Anita said this country of contrasts went from huge agricultural enterprises like Delta Agrar to disadvantaged rural areas which reminded her of post-Soviet countries. She took particular interest in the PKB agricultural corporation owned by the city of Belgrade, and its 22,000 hectares which makes it one of the greatest milk producers in Europe.
On his first visit to this part of the world, IFAJ president Mike Wilson said the trip could be a model for other countries who want to organise press events — and one reason was because it was organised by journalists, not tour operators. He said the low cost of the tour also attracted journalists.
Riitta Mustonen, Finland, agreed — pointing out you can spend a farm holiday in a nice Serbian village with three meals and free slivovitz (the fiery plum brandy of Central and Eastern Europe) for 15 euro per day. She welcomed the different Serbia from what we see in the news: vitally developing, people willing to co-operate and work, beautiful landscapes.
Marjolein van Woerkom from the Netherlands was also struck by the range, from the newest harvester in the International Agriculture Fair in Novi Sad to the scythes for sale 200 meters away. Most of all, she enjoyed the people, the tour participants from Ukraine to Finland, and the Serbs.
Adrian Krebs, Switzerland, noted the enormous agricultural potential, and the lack of financial means to explore it.
Ilse Huber, Austria, foresees Serbia becoming a country of sustainable, biodiversity sensitive and organic agriculture, partly because of lack of money, but also due to conscious decisions such as refusing GMO agriculture.
A fascinating nation farming some of the best land in Europe, said Rodney Magowan, Northern Ireland.
Hans Siemes from the Netherlands, calculated that the tour travelled a short distance from the farm at Lazarevo where, a few days later, former Bosnian Serb General Ratko Mladic, one of the world’s most wanted war crime suspects, was captured after a 16-year hunt. Now, the Serbians are more busy with the future, said Hans, and what a contrast it was for the Balkan Tour 2011 participants, lunching in the garden of Agropress President Goran Djakovic, savouring the friendly hospitality of Serbia.
“It was a delight,” agreed Marjolein van Woerkom. “I think no one of the participants will ever forget this.”