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News 05 Aug 16

Russian Ban Alarms Bosnia Fruit Producers

Bosnian fruit and vegetable producers stand to lose millions of euros after Russia slapped a temporary ban on imports of such items from Bosnia, citing concerns about safety.

Rodolfo Toe
BIRN
Sarajevo
 
 Illustration: Fruits and Vegetables. Photo: FLICKR.

Bosnian fruit and vegetable producers fear major losses after Russia introduced a temporary ban on such imports from Bosnia from August 4.

“If the blockade remains in force in the following months, this will do incredible damage to our producers,” Dragoja Dojcinovic, president of the association of fruit producers of Republika Srpska, Bosnia's Serb-dominated entity, told BIRN.

“This is a crucial period, as the farmers are starting the harvest,” Dojcinovic pointed out, noting that spring was already hard for producers in the entity and that “many [farmers] had already signed contracts with Russia on exporting their produce.”

Rosselkhoznadzor, the Russian Veterinary and Plant Health Inspection service, said it ordered the ban because of concerns about safety.

“This limitation was introduced because of the lack of information on the plant health status of Bosnia and Herzegovina and because the [Bosnian] Ministry of Foreign Trade refused to accept a mission of inspection from Rosselkhoznadzor, which should have conducted a survey of the Bosnian control system on plant health,” Rosselkhoznadzor wrote, according to Aljazeera Balkans.

In July, Russian experts from the Center for the Development of Entrepreneurship in St Petersburg had warned that export certificates for the EU market are not valid for Russia, Bosnian business website Capital reported.

Bosnia's Ministry of Foreign Trade declined to comment to BIRN on the decision of the Russian authorities.

A long-term ban would be a major blow for the agricultural sector in Bosnia, which in the past two years started exporting massively to the Russian market, taking advantage of the sanctions introduced by the EU against Moscow in 2014 in connection with Ukraine.

According to the Bosnian Chamber of Foreign trade, the value of exports to Russia of fruits and vegetables, especially apples, pears, grapes, cabbages and tomatoes, grew from 3 million euros in 2014 to 11.8 million euros in 2015.

In the first six months of this year alone, the value of this trade reached 10 million euros.

“If the ban is not lifted, agricultural producers in Bosnia could lose up to 25 million euros, which would be a great loss,” Amila Sehic, an expert at the Bosnian Chamber of Commerce, told BIRN.

Vladimir Blagojevic, spokesperson of the Chamber of Commerce of Republika Srpska, agreed.

“Exports from the RS to Russia have grown constantly in past years,” Blagojevic stated, noting that fruits are one of the most important products that the entity sells to Russia.

“If this ban remains in force, it will be a major loss for many here in the RS,” he said.

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