The Sweden/USAID FARMA II project supported the Agricultural Cooperative Brka to expand its dairy production facilities. Brka will now increase its milk processing from 500 to 6,000 liters a day and start selling new high-quality dairy products on the local market.

“The Agricultural Cooperative Brka was established to give farmers a chance to make living from their own work,” says Adis Rahman, the cooperative representative. He notes that the cooperative is based in Brčko District, Northern BiH, but that it now gathers some 1,200 farmers from ten additional municipalities, three in the Republika Srpska and seven in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

"The cooperative dates back to 1946. However, in our current legal form, we function from 2001. A lot of things are complicated in our country and so is our registration, but that does not keep us from moving forward and creating better working and living conditions for our farmers,” continues Adis.

Mixed production

Brka cooperative mainly gathers farmers who produce fruit for domestic processors, some 900, and their annual output is 2,500 tons. They also produce 1,000 tons of grain and some vegetables, but 300 of their members are dairy farmers who annually produce between four and five million liters of milk, which they primarily sell to Mlijekoprodukt, one of the larger dairies in BiH.

“Our farmers produce a substantial amount of quality milk, so in 2019 we started processing some of it and producing smoked cheese, butter, and several other dairy products. We saw that we have a market for our produce, but our processing capacities were rather small, only 500 liters of milk a day, and we started working on the expansion,” explains Adis.

According to him, processing one liter of raw milk into a dairy product gives up to five times larger financial returns than selling it to large dairies for processing, "and this is where our motivation to start processing more milk came from."

With the support of the Sweden/USAID FARMA II project, they expanded their milk processing capacities to 48,000 liters and have implemented HACCP and ISO 22000 food safety standards.

Playing it safe

"We always plan our production according to the market needs. That way, we produce "pre-sold" products and protect the interests of our members,” says Adis. “We will do the same with dairy products. Thanks to the FARMA II project, our production capacities grew 96 times, but we won't use them fully just yet. Following the six months of market research and development, we will now start processing 4,000 liters of milk a day into cheese, cream cheese, butter, and other dairy product. We will also produce 2,000 liters of pasteurized milk a day and some whey."

Their brand MILCOOP has gained recognition on the local market in the Brčko region. As their annual dairy production grows from 20 to 230 tons of different cheeses and butter, they will start selling to a wider market. "We won't take any unnecessary risks. We are slowly entering new markets. We started distributing to shops in the wider-Bijeljina region (Northeastern BiH). As we conclude negotiations with additional distributors, we will also cover Sarajevo and, I hope, other parts of BiH too," he concludes.