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Associations of farmers from both Republika Srpska and the Federation entity want action from the Bosnian authorities to protect the domestic market and start solving many of their other problems.
First on the list of burning issues for the farmers is the protection of Bosnia’s exports and the regulation of imports into the country.
Representatives of farmers' associations from both the Bosniak-Croat Federation and the Serb-dominated Republika Srpska entity came to Sarajevo on Thursday to highlight the damage caused to their businesses by the country’s lack of export and import regulations.
Vladimir Usorac, the head of Republika Srpska's farmers' association, told a press conference that he and his colleagues want the authorities to start checking what is imported into Bosnia.
Usorac warned that Bosnia allows “all kinds of stuff” to enter the country through its lack of trading standards.
“We have all eaten meat from the sick cattle that was imported from Croatia a couple of years ago,” Usorac said, “No one stopped that.”
He urged the authorities to insure that Bosnian farmers have the same rights and opportunities as farmers in other countries in terms of trade.
“If nothing happens we will block all the border crossings on September 3,” Usorac announced.
Mehmed Niksic, the president of the milk producers association for the Federation entity, said that agriculture across the whole country faces additional problems because of the heavy February snow and this summer’s drought, which have combined to cause over 70 per cent damage to some produce for some farmers .
Leaving aside the issue of compensation for these natural disasters, he added that farmers had not yet even received their annual subsidies from the entities..
“We have not received a penny this year,” Niksic said, “and they also owe us money from the last year.”
The farmers are also demanding a the formation of a state-level chamber of commerce, since they all share the same problems and neither the country, or the entities, are helping them at present.
“We would be crazy not to see that we have to look after ourselves here,” Usorac said referring to lack of concern shown by the political parties for agriculture.
Usorac and Niksic said they would be happy to attend the high-level political meeting in Monstar, scheduled for next week where they would warn leaders of the six ruling parties about the issues which they claim are destroying agriculture in Bosnia.
“They did not prepare us for Croatia's EU membership,” Usorac said, “We don't have the export framework in place, which is necessary for anyone who wants to export to the EU.”
He emphasized the importance of the Croatian market to Bosnia saying that nearly 50 million litres of milk would be staying in Bosnia from January 1 next year when the neighbouring country started to apply EU trading standards and leave the Central European Free Trade Agreement, CEFTA.
Bosnian milk producers would be disproportionately impacted because Bosnia does not have EU-level hygiene standards or laboratories to certify goods
“Twenty thousand households will be hit by that,” he said, “And that’s only the milk producers!”
The Bosnian Foreign Trade Chamber warned on Monday that Bosnia is already suffering because of a lack of trading standards, with some products already being returned from the border.
The situation will become even worse once from January 1, 2013, when Croatia starts to implement EU trading standards, six months prior to officially joining the union.
Exports from Bosnia to Croatia fell in the first half of 2012, Bosnia’s Foreign Trade Chamber said, putting it down to the country’s inability to meet EU standards.
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