In 2019, the fruit and vegetable sector recorded a slight increase in exports compared to the previous year, while at the same time a high increase in imports of 16 percent was recorded, according to the analysis of the Bosnian Foreign Trade Chamber (VTKBiH) and Sweden / USAID FARMA II project.
Head of the USAID/Sweden FARMA II Fruit and Vegetable Sector Project, Velibor Trifkovic, has stated that the total exports amounted to 188 million BAM and imports to a record 402 million BAM, confirming a lack of production on the domestic market, according to Freshplaza.
In 2015, these imports amounted to 293 million BAM and increased in the following years. The coverage of imports by exports was 52 percent, which is a slight decrease from the previous year.
Fruit and vegetable products continue to dominate the trade. Fruits worth 123 million BAM were exported, vegetables amounted to 44 million BAM and processed products amounted to 21 million BAM.
Trifkovic explained that in the structure of imports, the share of fruit is about 51 percent worth 206 million BAM, vegetables 26 percent or 106 million BAM, and processed fruits and vegetables 22 percent or 90 million BAM.
The five key export products, accounting for 52 percent of exports, are: frozen raspberries (59 million BAM), fresh pears (17 million BAM), apples (12 million BAM), cornichons (six million BAM) and plums (5 million BAM).
With regard to foreign trade for the fruit and vegetable sector with partner countries, Serbia is a leading partner in terms of total trade volume, with imports from Serbia double the exports from BiH. A positive balance of trade is recorded with Germany and the Russian Federation.
More than 560 farmers from Northwestern Bosnia produce over 1.500 tons of fruits and vegetables for export to Hungary, Germany, France, and Turkey, the Sweden/USAID FARMA II Project stated, according to the Fena news agency.
Nermin Bašić, who heads Bašo Ltd. and whose company buys fruits and vegetables from more than 560 farmers from Velika Kladuša municipality and the area called Bosnian Krajina, adjacent to the Croatan border pointed out the risks for placement of agricultural products arising from the new situation, caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
“When the pandemic started, I was afraid that our exports might be affected if borders were to be closed or if we were to be unable to ship our product to the markets we export to,” says Nermin Bašić, emphasizing the willingness to take risks and continue working in this segment.
Talking about his experience he said that he reached out to the higher levels of authority seeking their advice regarding the situation with the exports, but he got no response.
“Then I decided to continue working as planned and to take on all the risk,” explains Nermin. On one end, he contracts the farmers who produce gherkins, raspberries, and strawberries, and collect forest fruits and mushrooms. On the other end, he has contracts with the buyers in Hungary, Germany, France, and Turkey to whom he exports.
He emphasized that they now produce 700 tons of gherkins, some 620 tons of raspberries, and two to three hundred tons of forest fruits and mushrooms. Out of these amounts, he produces some ten percent, while the rest is produced by the farmers they work with.
He added that Bašo Ltd now has nine full-time employees and some 40 seasonal workers.