Interview with Živoslav Stojanović, the president of the Beekeeping Association of Serbia (SPOS)
Stojanovic, would you please introduce yourself to our visitors and tell
them something about yourself
I was born 58 years ago in Suvodol near Smederevo. By profession, I am a constructing engineer. I have 34 years long experience at geotechnical work, made in two companies only. I have spent the last 23 years at executive positions, 15 years of which as a manager. At the moment I am the manager and co owner of "Zavod za geotehniku", a geotechnical company in Subotica.
It was not before 1991 that I entered the wonderful world of bees. I was the president of “Pcela”, the beekeeping society in Subotica, the president of the beekeeping association of Vojvodina, a member of the presiding committee of SPOS, and now, I have been the president of SPOS for almost two years. I use two types of hives – Langstroth and AZ Namjesnik. I have been married for 33 years and we have two sons, 30 and 25 years old. I live in Palic, near Subotica.
2. How would you describe the organization that you lead?
SPOS is a powerful organization with over 12 000 members in this year and 11 decades long tradition. After political reforms of the year 2000, the number of members stagnated or was even decreasing a little, but in the last three years it tends to grow, especially in 2007 for almost 50%. The magazine “Pcelar”, the pillar of our association is one of the best in the region, estimated by the members of Balkan Federation and Apislavia at the recent meeting in Bucharest. This year will be remembered as the year with the greatest circulation in the last 15 years, since over the year the circulation was constant at 14 200 copies, and one issue was printed in 15 000 copies. From this year on, apart from traditional Cyrillic the magazine has been printed in Latin letters and these copies are distributed in Vojvodina, but also in Croatia, Slovenia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
On a meeting in Banatsko Veliko Selo founding a new beekeeping society
3. The second year of your presidency is running out. Can you tell us something about the Association’s activities in the period? What has been done and in what circumstances?
The circumstances were not easy. It took us a lot of effort and even wisdom to tune our orchestra of 15 members (the Executive board), mostly highly educated persons and very strong individuals. I will remind you that the result of the last electoral assembly was very tight and that the deputies equally shared their votes to 3 candidates (Spasic, Zecevic and Stojanovic), and that the division was visible at the Executive Board meetings, especially in the first quarter of the term. However, the honor, reason and correct behavior of the majority of the members prevailed, so in the last year an important constructive majority of 12 members was formed. I am sure that in those circumstances a lot have been done. With all due respect to the previous management of SPOS, I think that many positive results were for the first time achieved in our Association.
It was the first time that our magazine “Pcelar” reached
the circulation of 15 000, that it was printed in Latin letters and distributed
in ex Yugoslavia countries. It was the first time that SPOS became a respected
partner in the Ministry of Agriculture. It was the first time that an important
jubilee – 110 years of the Association’s existence was marked with honor and
dignity. The association has published a commercial about honey on national
television for the first time. It was also the first time that the Ministry of
Agriculture financially aided one of our actions. It was the first time that a
honey beauty queen pageant of Serbia was held. It was the first time that the
issues of magazine “Pcelar” from 1989 to 2005 were digitalized and distributed
as a DVD to all the members with the January issue of 2008. It was the first
time that two Belgrade beekeeping societies jointly financed the costs of the
premises they use together with SPOS.
4. What do you see as the present and future tasks of the Association?
At the moment it is most important that we have a dignified and democratic electoral assembly, and I described my future tasks in my election program of work for 2008-2010. However, I would like to mention that, before all, I see my future duties in strengthening the existing cooperation with governmental organizations, especially with the Ministry of Agriculture, and in further development of marketing of bee products. Then, after the new law on civic organizations is adopted, we plan to pass the new Statute of SPOS and consider the possibilities of commercial activities of our organization. I also think that we should make a kind of mild reorganization of the Association by introducing some new temporary expert commissions, especially after signing Stabilization and Association Agreement with EU, when the European funds will become accessible. One of the goals is to expand already good cooperation with our Serbian Orthodox Church, by founding a few more apiaries in monasteries and providing more specialist temporary lecturers for the course of beekeeping in Orthodox Seminary St. Arsenije Sremac in Sremski Karlovci, since this is where the era of Serbian rational beekeeping began, thanks to professor Jovan Zivanovic, which is also the name of the award given by our association.
5. What is, in your opinion, expecting the beekeepers in Serbia related to the attitude of the state towards beekeeping? How do you see the future of beekeeping in Serbia?
Whether we want it or not, it is clear that everything must be transparent and recorded. The state wishes to have information about how many of us there are and how many colonies we have. It also wants evidences of apiaries and agricultural households. All subventions and functional credits must go through bank accounts opened for the purpose of an agricultural household. One should always make a difference between registering (recording) an apiary and registering an agricultural household. The first is an obligation and the second is a desirable opportunity. The registration of an agricultural household costs nothing and can help a lot, so we should all register. Beekeeping is the only branch of agriculture where one does not have to own land to register. It is the fact that our country started a certain program of subventions which should increase in the future and that it protects our beekeeping with 30% custom on imported honey and 15 dinars (≈ 0.19 €) per kg tax deduction. As we approach the procedure of joining EU, the custom duty and tax deduction will be abolished, and stimulating measures and subventions as well as the accessibility to EU funds should increase. It is a fortunate circumstance that unlike many other products, there are no defined quotes for honey production in EU, but we must have in mind that the price of honey on world market is very low and that we must increase production and decrease the expenses using rational methods and assistance of the state.
When I began with beekeeping it was thought that having 100 hives was enough for making a living, but I heard at our last Apislavia meeting in Bucharest that the lowest limit of economical beekeeping is 150 colonies. There are only 1.74% of such beekeepers in Serbia, which is very low compared to EU. In order to be successful beekeepers and sell our honey to domestic and European market we should produce honey which is approved, without residues, and aim to make honey of certified origin since it has better price. The acacia honey should have the advantage, since it is rare in the world. It is produced in Panonian region and nowhere else. However, I must add fresh and shocking news for me that China, as one of the greatest honey exporters in EU, noticed that Hungary exports the acacia honey at much greater prices then them, so they bought new types of productive acacia from Hungarian foresters and began producing acacia honey.
6. You were recently representing Serbia at Apimondia in Melbourne Australia. What are your impressions from the congress? You also took part in other beekeeping manifestations in the world. How do you see the tendencies in contemporary beekeeping?
Australia is a vast country with the size of Europe and the number of inhabitants similar to ex Yugoslavia. It is very interesting that their beekeepers have good honey flows, before all thanks to different sorts of eucalyptus with long and heavy flows. The average honey production is 3.5 times bigger than ours – around 70 kg per a hive. In order to work efficiently, beekeepers should make 200 – 250 kg per a hive, which is unthinkable in our circumstances. Another important fact is that although our Pcelar wrote about Varroa reaching Australia, there is none in Victoria, a southern state, so it is unbelievable for us that you can practice beekeeping without having problems with this pest and using chemicals against it. 8 frames Langstroth is the prevalent type of hive, slightly modified so that it does not have the inner cover and roof, but one component which serves as both. Lectures were held in sections. The apitherapy section and the works presented there made the greatest impression to me. The conference room was always full, so that many people did not have a place to sit. I was impressed by a presentation about a Cuban who couldn’t walk for 35 years due to an open wound on his thigh. Not single antibiotic or other pharmaceuticals could help him, but a year long treatment with apitherapeutic medicament made of propolis and vegetable oils extract enabled him to stand on his legs for the first time after 35 years
I was proud to represent our SPOS at the Apimondia General Assembly with three votes which are assigned to us according to the Statute due to the number if members and hives, although we are a small country. For the sake of comparison, the Association from Croatia had only one vote, while Ukraine had 6 votes. The Assembly made a decision that the 42nd congress should take place in Argentina (the 41st is to be held in Montpellier France).
Contemporary beekeeping tendencies are such that the accent is put on honey without residues, on rational honey production, which means increasing the number of hives and producing honey sorts of certified origin. Our main opportunity lies in acacia honey, since it can only be produced in this part of the Balkans and Middle Europe. However, I am reminding you that I have recently heard a surprising news that Hungarians acacia producers sold some new types of acacia to the Chinese and that they began producing acacia honey.
With priest Ceda Videkanic near Melbourne in his beeyard
I must say that my short stay in Melbourne was very successful thanks to you and your website www.pcela.co.yu, since I got great help from two local beekeepers who originate from ex Yugoslavia – Goran Susanj and Davor Bujanovic. I was almost embarrassed of how helpful they were, but they told me that every friend of Predrag Cvetkovic is their friend. Why? They told me that local beekeepers are very jealous of their beekeeping knowledge, and that the only place on the Internet they could get practical advice was in contacts through your site. It was very nice to hear that one of our privately owned sites helps and connects people. I was proud and much moved at the same time. This is an opportunity to thank Susanj and Bujanovic families once again.
7. Thank you for such kind words for the site I manage. I am really glad that you met Goran and Davor. Although they live only 3 – 4 km apart from each other, they met through the site.
to continue with the questions: How do you see the situation in Serbian
beekeeping compared to the world? Where are we? What are the relationships of
SPOS with the beekeeping associations of neighboring countries?
According to the size of an average apiary we are very good compared to beekeeping associations in EU. By this criterion, if we were in EU today we would be on the excellent 5th position. By the number of beekeepers in the Association, we would be in the middle, on the 15th place. However, we have very low number of professional beekeepers compared to EU. It was said at the recent Apislavia meeting in Bucharest that the lowest limit of a professional beekeeper’s apiary is 150 hives. Today, we have only 1.74% of such beekeepers, while in Romania there are 10 times more – 17.4%. Due to SPOS activity in the recent 20 years our beekeepers are very well acquainted with beekeeping technology and health protection problems of bees, but compared to the rest of the world, we have a much bigger problem – how to increase the number of professional beekeepers and how to sell our honey.
The relationships with other beekeeping associations in neighboring and other countries are very good and are constantly getting better. The best example is the fact that national associations of Slovakia, Romania, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Croatia, Montenegro and Republic of Srpska actively participated at the recent SPOS 110 year’s anniversary ceremony in Kolarac foundation Belgrade on the 6th of October 2007. We have very good relations with the associations of France, Turkey, Greece, Hungary, as well as with Apimondia, Apislavia and Balkan Beekeeping Federation. We exchange not only beekeeping experience, but also legal regulative. We also connect beekeepers with equipment manufacturers and bee products buyers.
In April 2007 in Ruma, thanks to the good cooperation between SPOS and Croatian Beekeeper Association, the two presidents (Stojanovic and Kranjec) organized the meeting of Croatian Beekeepers’ Union and our beekeeping equipment producers (Evrotom, Radomed, Roj, Zlatna pčela, Karolji Nektar and Medena) so that our manufacturers could have continuous production and Croatian market, while Croatian beekeepers can buy the equipment at production prices. I also organized a meeting of a Romanian honey trader with one of the two domestic companies (Timomed) which has the license to export honey into Romania, which is EU.
is your personal relationship with bees and beekeeping? How much is
beekeeping present in your life?
I entered the wonderful world of bees accidentally 20 years ago, not to produce honey or other bee products, but to have better pollination of a new orchard I made in the suburbs of Subotica towards Kelebija. Bees were there for one year. Today I have bees in different parts of the country, from the border with Hungary to Fruska Gora and Homolje mountains, but not in my orchard. The greatest success is that I made my wife, who used to be against beekeeping, an active beekeeper, as well as my two sons (25 and 30 years old) especially the older one. Although I am a hobbyist beekeeper, I have around 60 colonies in Langstroth and AZ hives, I managed to maintain my honey production at around 4 tons per a year, except for the last year (2007) when I made only a little more than 1000 kg due to my obligations towards the Association, and a very bad season because of the bad weather conditions. My wife has an interesting remark about this: “the high rank in the organization and honey production are reversely proportional”. However, the most valuable thing is that through beekeeping I met some wonderful people in the country and in the world (and very rarely the other kind). Now it is not difficult for me to make contacts with the greatest beekeeping experts and people in beekeeping associations of other countries and bring them to our beekeeping meetings often free of charge (professor Hegedis from Hungary, professor Kovacic from Croatia, Henri Clément, the president of National Union of French Apiculture, the greatest association in Europe).
In Homolje, 2007
At beekeeping exhibition in Subotica
9. As an experienced beekeeper who is also well informed about the situation in beekeeping, what would you recommend to our beekeepers to be more successful?
We must think about the economy of beekeeping much more, which is how to spend less time and effort and produce more. We must take advantage of all the benefits that beekeeping brings about and beside honey be able to produce other bee products: pollen, wax, royal jelly and even bee venom. We must increase the number of hives so that we could decrease production cost per one kg of produced honey.
10. At the end of this conversation, is there something else you would like to say?
We are a small country with well developed beekeeping. It is good that we have only one association – SPOS. We must stay united and cooperative and not separate as is the case in many of our towns where there are 2 even three beekeeping societies and clubs. This is a small problem at the level of a town or municipality, but in the country, it would be a much greater problem. We are expecting to sign the Stabilization and Association Agreement with EU soon, which would make different EU funds accessible. We must have in mind that EU can cooperate with only one national association. Our old motto Only Unity can Save the Serbs is rational as always.
Mr. President, thank you for the interview and I wish you successful work.
Thank you and I also wish you success in your work.
(The interview took place at the end of December 2007 and in January 2008.)
Interviewer: Predrag Cvetković