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February 20 2018, 15:40 Independent Balkan News Agency

Bosnia and Herzegovina still fails to get Russia's ban lifted

A month after Russia reinstalled the ban on the import of fresh apples from BiH to its market, BiH institutions are still trying to find the solution and to offer more guarantees that the products are local and not re-exported from third country.

A few years ago, when Poland imposed the economic sanctions against Russia, a chance for the Bosnia and Herzegovina fruit producers to fill this gap was opened. Russia agreed to import the fruit, mostly apples, but one of the conditions was that the products must be grown on local farms. Once before in the past, Russia had discovered that some BiH exporters were not respecting this commitment and banned the imports for a few months. After many negotiations, import from BiH continued, but just for a year and a half when, in January this year, Russian inspection again discovered that apples imported as BiH products are, in fact, from Poland. There was no other way to prevent this than to impose the ban again. The first reaction from the BiH producers was that the ban was not fair because, they argued that just a few crates, under the glued BiH declaration of export were found to have had a stamp from Poland, because some of them are poor and didn’t have money to purchase new crates. Naturally, this explanation was not taken seriously.

The BiH Ministry of foreign trade and economic relations is trying to solve this problem, but there are many obstacles. As the media reported, the Ministry of Agriculture of the Republika Srpska gave a negative opinion on the Decision on the conditions for registration and obligations of exporters of fruit and vegetables from BiH to the Russian Federation, making the export of apples to the Russian market questionable.

The goal of this Decision, suggested by the BiH Ministry of foreign trade and economic relations, is to improve conditions that exporters need to meet in order to export to the Russian market and to reduce the possibility of abuse at the minimum. Positive opinions have already been given by the line ministries of the FBiH and Brcko of the District, all in order to continue exporting to this significant market.

The minister of foreign trade and economic relations of BiH, Mirko Šarovic, recently stated that this decision directly improves the control system and that no part of the decision "crosses over" within the jurisdiction of the entities.

"Entity registers are not questioned, but the contact point for fruit and vegetable trade with the Russian Federation is the state level Plant Protection Directorate, which is defined by law, and by the protocol signed a year ago with the Russian Federation", Šarović stated.

The RS Ministry of agriculture confirmed negative opinion on the Decision but denied that it, in this manner, blocked the solution of this large problem. A ministry spokesman, Aleksandar Macanović, stressed that the negative opinion was given because it is not in accordance with the laws, according to which BiH Council of Ministries define the competencies of the entities in BiH. He added that, according to the laws, agriculture is one of the competencies which are at entities level and state level cannot have an influence on it. Additionally, Macanović went on, there is no documentation which confirms that Russia will withdraw the ban after the adoption of the Decision.

To realise how much producers are losing with this ban is enough to say that just last year BiH exported on the Russian market 23 000 tons of fruit and 12 700 tons of that are apples. The total worth of apples export to Russia was about EUR 9 million. It was estimated that, during the previous ban which lasted for 10 weeks, producers lost about EUR 3 million.

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