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Bosnian dairy farmers ask for more help in achieving EU standards as main trading partner Croatia prepares to enter the European bloc.
Milk producers in Bosnia met officials from the country's Foreign Trade Ministry and Foreign Trade Chamber on Tuesday and urged them to help harmonize domestic product standards with EU standards.
More than 60 per cent of the milk produced in Bosnia is exported to Croatia. Because Bosnia does not yet have EU-level hygiene standards or laboratories to certify goods, many farmers stand to lose money and jobs when Zagreb joins the EU in July 2013 and begins to require EU standards.
Croatia recently agreed to push back the date of the closure of its borders to Bosnian milk from January 1 to June 31 next year. Officials in Sarajevo have hailed the agreement as a success, but Bosnian producers on Tuesday urged for more to be done.
Dairy farmer Mehmed Niksic told the media that the biggest problem for Bosnian farmers is a lack of subsidies, claiming the cash often goes to larger companies.
“This six-month extension will not be significant at all,” Niksic said. “The authorities brought down the producers and they seem to be expecting a round of applause for the extension of the deadline.”
He explained that the problem faced by the producers is the many new regulations issued by the Bosnian authorities over product standards, which have led to confusion or financial problems due to the lack of subsidies.
“At the same time we don't have the technical equipment to fulfill the standards and prove the quality of our products,” Niksic noted.
“We check our milk quality every day but we just don't have certificates to enable our export because Bosnian laboratories are not certified.”
Bruno Bojic, president of the Foreign Trade Chamber, said that the country exports more than 20 million euros of milk products and that a blockade of exports to Croatia would seriously harm Bosnian producers.
“Products of animal origin, milk and meat products can be exported to Croatia half year longer than a previous deadline and I hope that our producers will meet the required conditions by then,” Bojic said.
Dusan Neskovic of the State Foreign Trade Ministry said that up to 90 per cent of the harmonization laws have been adopted, but that they are not being properly implemented.
Bosnia’s exports to Croatia are currently regulated by the less strict regime of the Central European Free Trade Agreement, CEFTA, to which both countries belong.
But before Croatia joins the EU it must leave CEFTA and will then only import goods that meet the EU’s stringent agriculture hygiene inspection standards.
EU official warns Bosnia that a significant amount of its exports to Croatia may be cut off next year, owing to its failure to impose EU hygiene standards.
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