Guns N’ Raspberries

IMG_5654What says “Serbia” better than an AK-47?

Long have we been trying to find a product which points out the strength of the Serbian economy to the rest of the world. In the January 6th edition of the Economist magazine, one article proclaimed to its many readers that the arms trade in Serbia is much more valuable than its fruit industry. “Guns are also worth rather more than raspberries,” they say.


As my good friend Remer Lane and I sat contemplating the juxtaposition of guns and raspberries, I found myself calling into question my own ideas of what is “worth rather more” to me. Serbia exports hundreds of thousands of tons of fresh fruit (including many gun’s-worth of raspberries) every year. One of the country’s leading producers has won best in the world for its raspberry juice. The global conference of the International Raspberry Organization was held in Belgrade in 2006. The raspberry is noted as the most profitable Serbian commodity export. The raspberry sector employs many thousands of people not otherwise employable. Remer knows these raspberry numbers by heart.

But a raspberry is not a gun.

On a one for one basis, I suppose one could agree. A semi-automatic rifle is probably worth at least a couple thousand individual raspberries. Not to mention an M-84 tank. No one says speak softly and carry a handful of raspberries. The image of fresh fruit is just not as sexy as a shiny new weapon.

The arms business feels more Serious. If our weapon sales are growing faster than the growing season of raspberries, should that fill us with national pride? Should we go out in the streets armed to the teeth just to show off? If someone asks you where you are from, should you say: “I am from Serbia. We make guns!”

Anytime we go shopping, after all, we find ourselves staring down the barrel of the raspberry industry’s finest products. We buy them fresh and frozen. We buy raspberry juice, raspberry jam, raspberry compote, raspberry cakes and cookies, raspberry yogurt, dried raspberries, raspberry brandies and liquors. It is safe to say that an average consumer in Serbia brushes by at least one or two raspberry products every single day.

In looking for a new image abroad for Serbia, one which is still marred by lack of information and outdated footage from the 1990s, it would seem that we might look a little bit further than the business end of the arms business.

Aren’t we “worth rather more” than that?


Belgrade Insight, January 2011


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