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Bosnia-Herzegovina faces food, social crisis

Bosnia-Herzegovina may soon face a serious food crisis, since the country’s stocks of grain could hardly be enough to cover the needs of the next two weeks, experts warned Friday.

The shortage of basic food items was caused by heat and drought this summer that destroyed more than 40% of the crops. “The situation is more than alarming and some parts of the country could soon be without bread,” representative of the Milling Trade Union Miroslav Cosic told Sarajevo daily Dnevni avaz. Bosnia’s government, he said, behaves like it does not know about the problem. Bosnia-Herzegovina’s Chamber of Commerce warned that the country’s central government should open negotiations with neighboring Serbia and Croatia about possible imports of wheat and corn as soon as possible.

“Bosnia-Herzegovina should ask to purchase 50,000 tons of wheat and 25,000 tons of corn from each Serbia and Croatia, and should also start negotiations to import additional 150,000 tons of grain from the US or Argentina,” Muhamed Pilav, a millers’ representative said. The additional problem may be the fact that Serbia, due to wheat shortages, have already introduced an embargo on the export of wheat, while Croatia could make a similar move soon. The grain shortage and the increase of wheat prices on the world market, according to experts, would result in significant increases of prices of food in Bosnia-Herzegovina, especially basic food items, such as flour, sugar and oil and its products. Prices of bread and oil have already increased in some parts of the country by nearly 100%.

Due to a scare, people in supermarkets in the Bosnian capital Sarajevo waited in lines Thursday evening for a shopping cart and buy some flour, sugar and oil before prices went up or while they could still find those items in the shop. Some shops have already limited oil sales, allowing people to buy a maximum of 15 liters. Experts also warned that the food crisis may soon cause serious social unrest in the country, since new price increases of all food items were announced for September this year, starting with a minimum 30% increase in prices of meat, milk, fruits and vegetables and other items. This would be especially bad news for pensioners struggling to cover their basic needs.

The average monthly salary in the country amounts to 650 marks ($440), while a four-member family in Bosnia-Herzegovina, according to statistics, needs 500 convertible marks to cover its basic needs every month. Various consumers’ associations and trade unions called on the government to help by introducing a zero-tax policy on basic food items, instead of the current 17% flat rate. The country’s Prime Minister Nikola Spiric said the basic food items cannot be completely released from the taxation, but stressed that the government has been working on different programs to solve the situation and help the citizens go through the possible forthcoming crisis. (