Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) is a net food importer with $1.8 million in annual agri-food imports. The country has been a potential candidate for European Union (EU) membership since 2003 and is expected to join the World Trade Organization soon.
BiH’s population is 3.5 million and its consumer food retail market is estimated to be valued at $3.2 billion (KM 5.5 billion). Due to slow economic growth and an unemployment rate over 20 percent, BiH’s purchasing power is only 33 percent of the EU average (2020). BiH is currently one of the poorest countries in Europe, but the goals of EU and NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) membership are drivers for further economic growth and development.
Despite slow economic growth and weak purchasing power, food expenditures are increasing, and food imports are constantly growing. Tourism is increasingly seen as an important source of job growth and foreign exchange. Revenues generated in the lodging and food and beverage sectors have seen annual average growth of over 17 percent since 2015 and reached $291 million in 2019.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the growth in consumer food imports was expected to continue and certain U.S. food products, such as bovine genetics, beef, pulses, wine, seafood, dried fruits and tree nuts had good potential in the BiH market. Due to the coronavirus, industries such as tourism, transportation and manufacturing recorded weaker business results in 2020 than the year before. Many workers especially in the hotel and restaurant sector lost their jobs which worsened the unemployment rate that currently stands close to 16 percent. According to a World Bank study, BiH’s economy recovered in 2021 due to higher consumption and increased exports.