Open letter to the Minister of Agriculture

Belgrade, 26 February 2013 - Victoria Group addressed an open letter to the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Water Management, Goran Knežević, regarding his last public statements, with the invitation to visit the company and its members. We are publishing the content of the open letter:

Dear Mr. Minister,

Victoria Group is one of the largest employers, producers and net exporters in agriculture sector. As General Manager of the company that employs 1,800 people, cooperates with 40,000 farmers through 300 partners, I would like to provide you with the facts about our company’s business.

1. Regarding your statement from 20 February 2013, that Victoria Group is commiting sinchronized attacks on the Ministry of Agriculture „oriented towards economic weakening of the State, and above all of the farmers“, we would like to point out the following:

Milk analyses ordered by two independent clients (Consumer Protection Association of Vojvodina and Provincial Secretariat of Agriculture, Water Management and Forestry of the Autonomous Province of Vojvodina) were carried out to the highest international standards.

The milk analyses results brought out by SP Laboratorija in the report from 18 February 2013 are accurate.

SP Laboratorija is one of the first accredited laboratories in Serbia, accredited under ISO/IEC 17025 by the Accreditation Body of Serbia. Following the agreement between the Accreditation Body of Serbia and the International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation, SP Laboratorija became internationally recognised.
SP laboratorija is accredited for domestic and international arbitrations, and at the request of Your Ministry, the Ministry of Health, the Veterinary Administration and numerous foreign and local producers, tests about 40,000 samples of food for human consumption and animal feed every year.

We would like to state once again that, with the permission of the parties that ordered the anayses, SP Laboratorija may offer the remaining quantities of the samples used in the milk analyses for re-testing to your Ministry and all relevant institutions.

2. Regarding your statement from 21 February 2013 – „It is well-known that GMO lobby is one of the most powerful lobbies in the world, therefore  engaging certain political and economic structures, as well as media, is no problem for them“.

Our member company Sojaprotein is the largest processor of genetically non-modified soybeans (non-GMO) in the country and in the region, and its non-GMO products are exported to 36 coutries worldwide, while 80% is exported to EU.

We are concerned about your information regarding the existence of "GMO lobby" in Serbia. We believe that it is your obligation to inform us, as well as all the citizens of Serbia, about individuals and organizations you were referring to and about the actions taken by  "GMO lobby", that could endanger the comparative advantage of Serbia, especially considering that for years Victoria Group has been emphasizing the importance of growing exclusively non-GMO crops.

3. Regarding your answer to the journalist’s question of why you are accusing Victoria Group for the "milk affair":  "the only factory in Serbia that could use the "carcinogenic" corn as a raw material for the production of biofuel instead for animal feed, is also owned by "Victoria Group". (Vecernje novosti, 26 February 2013):

Victoria Group, through its member Victoriaoil, has manufacturing facility and the technology for biodiesel production. Raw materials for biodiesel production are exclusively oilseeds, not corn. Corn is used for bioethanol production and there is no such factory in Serbia.

4. Regarding certain media’s false accusation of “using meat-bone meal in the production of animal feed in Veterinary Institute Subotica“:

Veterinary Institute Subotica, a member of Victoria Group, produces animal feed, pet food and fish food in its three manufacturing plants.

As the Minister in charge, we ask you that the Republic Veterinary Inspection of the Ministry of Agriculture publish its report No. 270-323-1429-12-05 from 31 December 2012, in which it is confirmed, following the inspection of our factory, that the meat-bone meal is used only in the production of pet food, in line with positive legal regulations of Republic of Serbia.

Hereby we invite you to visit our company, SP laboratorija, Sojaprotein factory of non-GMO soy, Victoriaoil’s biodiesel manufacturing facility, Veterinary Institute Subotica and all the factories and manufacturing plants that are part of Victoria Group, in order to be personally assured of the transparency of our business and of the following facts:

• In the last 10 years the company invested over EUR200 million in Serbia.
• The company purchases oilseeds from domestic producers from approximately 200,000 hectares of land, and further on it exports products of a higher processing phase to as many as 40 markets around the world, most of which are in the European Union. Victoria Group pre-finances primary agricultural production in Serbia each year with over EUR100 million, as sowing assistance for farmers.
• The entire workforce, both direct employees and Victoria Group’s vast network of suppliers, is engaged in the territory of the Republic of Serbia.
• All taxes and contributions are regularly paid into the budget of the Republic of Serbia.

I would like to assure you that Victoria Group will continue to invest in agriculture and the community in Serbia, as well as that the company will remain a reliable partner to all institutions, whose common goal is the development of the Serbian agriculture and benefit of farmers and citizens.

Zoran Mitrović
General Manager of Victoria Group