Cheese Producers Find Recipe for Success in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

July 20, 2015

50%

increase in income of individual farmers compared to 2010

269%

increase in annual cheese production

$24.3 million

in berry exports in 2014

Elvedin Mehić, director of the ZZ Eko Vlašić cooperative in Central Bosnia, which played a role in establishing the Cheese Producers Association, said the changes had been encouraging.

Eko Vlašić became a regionally recognized brand as a result of hard work. With USAID/(Swedish International Development Corporation Agency) FARMA’s assistance, we improved our production capacities and standards,” he said. “We even started test production of cheese and cheese spreads in the EU. This is a result of cooperation with BiH diaspora-owned production and distribution companies based in the EU. We got the courage to be ambitious. And it’s a good thing.”

FARMA also paved the way for BiH’s dairy sector to meet EU requirements for the export of milk to the European Union. In June 2015, BiH got a green light from the European Commission’s Directorate General for Health and Food Safety to export heat-treated milk and milk products to the European Union (pending submission of a list of production facilities that are rated as compliant).

During the last 5.5 years, FARMA provided comprehensive training, assistance, and support to dairy producers and processers on good hygiene practices and EU regulations. Project staff provided assistance to producers and institutions in final preparation for the EU Food and Veterinary Office audit and supported adoption of three laws on food, veterinary, and agriculture and rural development. Adoption of these laws (particularly veterinary and food) was important so that BiH’s legal framework met EU requirements for food safety.

“Eko Vlašić became a regionally recognized brand as a result of hard work. With USAID/(Swedish International Development Corporation Agency) FARMA’s assistance, we improved our production capacities and standards,”

Elvedin Mehić, director of the ZZ Eko Vlašić cooperative in Central Bosnia

“We even started test production of cheese and cheese spreads in the EU. This is a result of cooperation with BiH diaspora-owned production and distribution companies based in the EU. We got the courage to be ambitious. And it’s a good thing.”

Elvedin Mehić, director of the ZZ Eko Vlašić cooperative in Central Bosnia

All of these developments have improved prospects for cheese producers and dairy farmers in the country.

For the ZZ Eko Vlašić cheese cooperative, for example, project interventions in production and marketing had a significant impact on sales. By the end of 2013, the cooperative had increased its annual cheese production by 269 percent, from 16 tons in 2009 to 59 tons. The cooperative hired three more staff as its sales increased, and its success has had an impact on the local farming community. Compared to 2010, the income of individual farmers rose about 50 percent, due to the combined effect of improved milk quality and government subsidies. This increase is especially important in a place with an official unemployment rate of about 50 percent.

“As long as people are buying the products, there is great potential for cheese production development, especially for authentic cheeses…which could possibly in the future become recognized brands of our country,” Mr. Mrakić said.

Dairy is not the only sector where FARMA has helped BiH’s farmers grow their businesses and incomes. In the berry sector, FARMA introduced 54 varieties of berry fruits and production technologies, which has helped the berry market grow domestically and internationally. Between 2009 and 2014, berry exports jumped from 17 to 43 million convertible markas ($9.6 to $24.3 million) with help from FARMA’s interventions. Exports of products made from medicinal and aromatic plants jumped 96 percent during the same period, to reach 32.3 million markas ($18.3 million). The project also helped clear the path for the export of potatoes to the European Union, with the first exports expected later this year.