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Photograph: freeimages.com/Javier Ramos

Croatian agricultural and food exports increased by 19 per cent in the first nine months of 2015 compared with the same period in 2014, while imports rose by 9 per cent, the Croatian Chamber of Commerce (HGK) said on Monday, citing figures from the National Bureau of Statistics (DZS).

In the first nine months of 2015 Croatia exported EUR 1.089 billion worth of agricultural and food products and imported EUR 1.878 billion, generating a negative balance of EUR 789 million. Compared with the same time in 2014, exports went up by 19 per cent and imports by 9 per cent and the negative balance was reduced by 3 per cent.

"Despite the increase in imports, the positive thing is that the increase in the negative balance has finally been slowed down. We expect data for 2015 to show positive trends in relation to 2014, including a decrease in the negative balance," said Bozica Markovic, head of the HGK Department for Agriculture, Food Industry and Forestry.

The share of agricultural and food products in total exports is 13 per cent and their share in total imports is 14 per cent. Coverage of imports by exports is 58 per cent.

The mostly exported agricultural and food products were fresh fish (accounting for 7.6 per cent of total agricultural exports), corn (7.2 per cent), chocolate (4.9 per cent), sugar (4.4 per cent), malt extracts (3.9 per cent) and preparations for sauces (3.8 per cent).

"Exports tell us what we are competitive in and what we have in surplus. The imports structure warns of a worrying situation in the meat, dairy products, fruit and vegetables sectors. Primary production, including cattle raising, milk production and fruit and vegetable production and the associate food processing industry require structural changes and better networking," Markovic said.

The agricultural and food products that were imported the most were fresh pork (accounting for 5.9 per cent of total agricultural imports), bread and bakery products (4.4 per cent), chocolate (4.1 per cent), cattle fodder (4 per cent) and various food products (3.9 per cent).

Croatia's main export markets are Bosnia and Herzegovina (18 per cent), Slovenia (15 per cent), Italy (11 per cent) and Serbia (8 per cent), while its main import markets are Germany (15 per cent), Italy (12 per cent), Hungary (9 per cent) and the Netherlands (8 per cent).

In the first nine months of 2015 Croatia exported EUR 578 million worth of agricultural and food products to EU countries, which accounted for 53 per cent of total exports during that period. Exports to CEFTA (Central Europe Free Trade Agreement) countries reached EUR 374 million, accounting for 34 per cent of total agricultural exports. Imports mostly came from the EU, totalling EUR 1.56 billion or 83 per cent.

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