Bosnia and Herzegovina is among the richest countries in the world when it comes water management. The locally bottled water is of high value, having received numerous awards for its quality, yet each year our water imports rise. Thus, according to the BiH Foreign Trade Chamber, we imported 121,869,462 KM worth of water in eleven months of last year, while in our country exported only 33,349,816 KM, which is almost four times less than the value of the imports.
“The state needs to address this problem, because it is the government that has not protected domestic production. We know that many international conventions want open markets, but it is up to each country to find ways to protect itself, and our country is not doing so. Our products that are exported to Serbia or Croatia for example, stand at the border for up to 20 days, while we allow products to enter BiH without any special controls or sanitary inspections.
Thus, the problem is first in the laws, as inspections are entitled to the entities, while the border control belongs to the state, creating an asymmetry in their responsibilities, not really knowing who actually controls the entry of goods, creating a large disparity between imports and exports, said Haris Muslić, president of the manufacturers group for soft drinks and water of the BiH Foreign Trade chamber.
Domestic manufacturers have long appealed to BiH authorities to protect domestic production, and to thoroughly examine the quality of the imported water, as there have been cases that the products entering BiH have been of questionable quality. Manufacturers also seek to remove the barriers to export water from BiH that currently exist in the region, stated Bruno Bojić, president of the BiH Foreign Trade Chamber.
However, it is not solely up to the government. The fact is, as Muslić stated himself, that Bosnians choose to buy imported water, so that the best-selling water in in the Republika Srpska comes from Serbia, and in Herzegovina is imported from Croatian.
“We have really high-quality domestic water brands, yet the answer to why we keep importing vast quantities of water is that these imported products are often cheaper than domestic ones. So, we have no competitiveness, and the charges are huge, said Muslić, and he noted that there was an idea to introduce an additional tax for water, which he considers meaningless, but domestic producers have been able to fight against it.
Water is not the only good that is being imported excessively. Many other products, including imports of beer, are putting local producers at a disadvantage compared to foreign importers.
“In Europe, a general rule of thumb has been that the import of beer is usually below 10 percent of the total consumption, and only in very rare cases exceeds 20 percent. In BiH, imports account for up to 70 percent of domestic consumption. What is extremely unusual, is the fact that a substantial share of imported beer is in the low to medium price category, while in most other countries imported beers are those of higher price categories, particularly in the category of premium beers. In addition, BiH is facing unfair competition that imports at prices lower than the average production cost of the domestic breweries. For example, a company with its production based in one of the neighboring countries sells to its subsidiary or importer in BiH at a price that is far below the final sales price of the product, said Zlatko Ramić, executive director of sales of the Sarajevo Brewery.
If the BiH authorities prevent the excessive imports of beer, it would allow local breweries to strengthen the domestic market, said Ramić. Domestic brewers do not need help, but they need the support of the government to fully implement the existing legal provisions, and to insist that imported beer are subject to the same rules as local breweries.
Translated by: Tea IVANOVIĆ
(Original version: Imamo svega, a ipak prekomjerno uvozimo)