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Bosnia has less than a year to update its food hygiene standards or lose millions of euro in exports to Croatia after the latter joins the EU.
Bosnia is dangerously unprepared for Croatia's accession to the European Union in 2013, Bosnian Foreign Trade Minister Mirko Sarovic warned in Bijeljina on March 23.
“Bosnia is unprepared for Croatian accession in many fields, such as accreditation bodies and certificated laboratories that can check goods' origins,” Sarovic said.
Bosnia's state and entity ministers of trade and agriculture met some of the main Bosnian exporters to Croatia on Friday to discuss possible solutions.
Some of the biggest worries concern milk producers who will no longer be able to sell dairy products across the border after 2013, as their products won't meet EU accreditation standards.
More than 60 per cent of milk produced in Bosnia is exported to Croatia and since Bosnia does not have the same hygiene standards or laboratories to certify goods, many farmers stand to lose money and jobs.
Sarovic said Bosnia must rapidly update its technology on food standards and labelling to meet EU benchmarks or find other markets.
“Much time has been lost but I'm convinced that even if we can't meet all the EU requirements on time, it is important to start implementing at least part of them,” Sarovic said.
Bosnia’s exports to Croatia are currently regulated by the easier regime of the Central European Free Trade Agreement, CEFTA, to which both countries now belong.
These exports account for 15 per cent of Bosnia's overall trade and are worth an estimated 3.73 billion euro a year to the country.
But before Croatia joins the EU it must leave CEFTA and only import goods that meet the EU’s stringent agriculture hygiene inspection standards.
This new regime will start on January 1, 2013, six months before official membership of the EU begins.
Bosnia could lose as much as 22 million euro a year in lost exports of meat, eggs and dairy products.
Bosnias Foreign Trade Chamber said last year that the country exports 40 million litres of milk alone a year to Croatia.
Food exports are one of the few industries in which Bosnia registers an export surplus.
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