SARAJEVO, June 7 (Xinhua) -- Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) is looking forward to exporting its dairy products to China, the country's Minister of Foreign Trade and Economic Relations Stasa Kosarac has said.
In a recent interview with Xinhua, he called the Chinese market "a great chance for the domestic agricultural sector" and noted that BiH has made the final step in the process of approving the export of dairy products to the Chinese market.
Chinese partners are now expected to adopt a list of BiH's 13 milk and dairy factories, which were approved to export to the European Union market, or to send their own inspectors to inspect and approve facilities themselves.
According to Kosarac, the export of milk and dairy products to the Chinese market would boost BiH's milk industry and attract new investments, improve its agriculture policies, raise rural population's income, and reduce the country's trade deficit.
The minister's optimism is not unfounded. China said in February that it intends to import goods worth more than 170 billion U.S. dollars from the Central and Eastern European countries (CEEC) in the coming five years, work to double CEE countries' agricultural exports to China, and raise two-way agricultural trade by 50 percent.
Darko Cobanov, a quality manager at cheese factory Eko Sir Puda, is very optimistic about the possible export approval of dairy products to the Chinese market.
"We are very interested in trying out any new prospective market, especially as big as Chinese," said the manager.
"With existing capacity, we could annually ensure around 200 tons of hard cheese for China," said Cobanov, adding that the cheese factory produces more than 500 tons of cheese annually and has huge potential for expanding its capacity.
"It can be a win-win deal," said Cobanov.
According to the Foreign Trade Chamber of BiH, the country is annually producing some 16,000 tons of cheese that accounts for only 6 percent of the country's total dairy production.
Smail Zilic, a 59-year-old dairy farmer, is also very optimistic about exporting cheese to China.
"We produce some 30 tons a year in our cheese factory Kupres Milch. But with the existing capacity we could go up to 100 tons a year. And we are also open to negotiating various kinds of partnerships in order to increase the capacity," he said.
After graduating in agronomy, Zilic worked for 22 years in the Federal Institute of Agriculture in Sarajevo. In 2004, he moved with his wife and two children some 150 km west of Sarajevo to settle in Kupres, a highland plateau and a well known farming area with a rich biodiversity.
"Of some 95 herbal species in these areas, 29 are endemic and considered to have medicinal value. That is what cattle eat throughout the year and that gives us such a quality milk and cheese," said Zilic, adding that there are no industry facilities and no busy roads within the radius of 80 km.
"I had a vision and I knew what I wanted, and it paid off. Now the whole family is happy and takes pride in our products," he said.
"I am proud to say our cheeses have won dozens of prizes on prestigious cheese festivals, beating sometimes even renowned French cheeses," said Zilic, noting that he believes the Chinese market is certainly a great opportunity.
"Export achievements are the carriers of the development of the domestic milk industry," Kosarac said, adding that China is a friendly nation and a long-time partner with which BiH would like to strengthen cooperation and trade. Enditem