Bosnian Krajina produces to export
More than 560 farmers from Northwestern Bosnia produce over 1,500 tons of fruit and vegetables for export to Hungary, Germany, France, and Turkey.
"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," said Nermin Bašić, who heads Bašo Ltd.
His 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.
Taking on the risk and moving forward
"I reached out to the higher levels of authority seeking their advice regarding the situation with the exports, but I got no response,” Nermin said. “Then I decided to continue working as planned and to take on all the risk,”
He contracts farmers who produce gherkins, raspberries, and strawberries, and collect forest fruits and mushrooms. He also has contracts with the buyers in Hungary, Germany, France, and Turkey to whom he exports.
"We now produce 700 tons of gherkins, some 620 tons of raspberries, and two to three hundred tons of forest fruits and mushrooms,” Nermin said. “Out of these amounts, I produce some ten percent, while the rest is produced by the farmers we work with."
He added that Bašo Ltd now has nine full-time employees and some 40 seasonal workers.
At this point, he values the export contracts as most important and is glad that transport across the borders is becoming quicker and cheaper, following the period marked by long queues and increased freight prices.
Greater interest for agriculture
The Government of Sweden and USAID first supported Bašo Ltd in 2011 with the installation of a freezing line.
"We export about 95 percent of all our products, and freeze 90 percent of our exports,” Nermin said. “This totals more than 1,500 tons of fruits and vegetables per year."
The Sweden/USAID FARMA II project recently supported them in purchasing an additional tractor and auxiliary equipment which combined with the use of cotton foils helps increase yields of gherkins.
"We now have greater yields of gherkins that are coming from smaller land parcels,” he said. “I know this sounds strange, but we now produce more gherkins using less land."
Nonetheless, the number of people engaged in fruit and vegetable production is on the rise, and more land is being cultivated since the outbreak of the pandemic.
"I would say that in comparison to 2019, people are now using 20 percent more land,” Nermin said. “Thanks to the municipal and FBiH subsidies, the number of people engaged in agriculture has increased. Velika Kladuša Municipality alone provided planting materials worth BAM 280,000. On the other hand, middle-aged people who had unstable jobs in the EU came back to BiH due to pandemic and are now working in agriculture.”
One is to hope that, with steady exports of fruits and vegetables, these people will remain in BiH after the pandemic is over.