The Sweden/USAID FARMA II project supported Sirana Milanković to double its milk processing capacities. Their traditional Ukrina cheeses will soon become available throughout BiH.
"We started producing cheese to protect our local tradition," says Dalibor Milanković, owner of the Sirana (cheese factory) Milanković, from Prnjavor, Northern Bosnia and Herzegovina.
“I grew up here in Palačkovci village next to Ukrina River eating cheeses and cream cheeses my grandma made at the family farm,” continues Dalibor. “We have a beautiful nature here, and the focus was always on healthy food. So finally in 2015, we registered our cheese factory, and I remember it well, on December 25, 2016, we sold the first Ukrina cheeses under our label.”
Part of the community
Sirana Milanković currently works with 29 local farmers from whom they buy between 160,000 and 180,000 liters of cow milk a year. It has four full-time employees, including Dalibor. “My employees are my neighbors, and all the farmers we work with live close to the river. We know each and every one of them.”
With a contracted truck driver who collects milk, Sirana Milanković works every day. “We never stop, but we do take shifts on the weekends. When there is too much work, my wife, mother, and sister also come to help,” says Dalibor.
Their production capacities, until recently, allowed them to annually produce some 20 tons of traditional soft and semi-hard cow cheese aged in whey and 6 tons of young and aged cream cheese. "Until the establishment of our cheese factory, autochthonous cheeses from Ukrina River were not available on the market. Now they can be bought in some 30 shops and supermarkets, and the demand is growing.”
Dalibor planned big from the very start. Already in 2015, he built the production facilities large enough to accommodate the production equipment of a double capacity, in comparison to what they installed initially. As the demand for their products increased from 2016 to 2019, they needed to expand the production. Looking for assistance, in mid-2019, they applied for a grant with the Sweden/USAID FARMA II project.
"The grant we received enabled us to buy additional equipment that will allow us to double the annual production. We also bought an additional five lacto freezes that will enable us to increase the number of farmers we work with."
Dalibor plans to gradually develop his business. "We have installed all the equipment and have started using it. But it will take us at least a year to start fully utilizing the new production capacities."
According to him, Sirna Milanković will contract an additional 31 new farmers to supply milk, employ three new workers at the factory, and introduce several new products including cheese with peppers, smoked cheese, and whey packed in bottles. Nonetheless, he emphasizes that they do not want to jeopardize the quality by producing more than they realistically can. "We’ll be patient but persistent,” he says. “Our plans for the future also include the production of high-quality butter and cheese spread. Step by step, we will do everything we can to make dairy products from Ukrina available to a wider BiH market, and also protect them from oblivion.”