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The Sweden/USAID FARMA II project provided a 200 m3 cooling facility to Agrom-EM to increase production and quality of their fruit and vegetables.

“It is already getting hot here,” says Dževad Šejtanić, owner of Agrom-EM, fruit and vegetable producer from Mostar, in Hercegovina.

This is not a surprise as Hercegovina, the Southern part of Bosnia and Hercegovina, in addition to its delicious fruit and vegetables, is known also for being very hot in the summer.

Thanks to the support that the Sweden/USAID FARMA II project provided to Agrom-EM, they no longer need to worry about the scorching heat during the picking season. The new 200 m3 cooling facility they received will enable them to cut losses caused by product drying and perishing in high temperatures. They will also be able to increase the quality of more than 450 tons of grapes, peaches, cherries, and pumpkins that they produce or buy from the local farmers.

Keeping it cool

“We will start picking first cherries at the end of May. This will be followed by peaches, and then by grapes and pumpkins all the way into September and October,” says Dževad.

He explains that until now they had to pick set amounts of fruit and vegetables that were ordered from them. As fruit and vegetables start drying quickly after being picked, and bigger orders sometimes take three to four days to pick, some 20 percent of products would perish and their quality deteriorate.

“The cooling facility means a lot to us,” continues Dževad. “First of all, we can now start putting fruit and vegetable we picked into a cold storage pallet by pallet, so that it does not stay in the sun even an hour. Secondly, we can prepare big orders of 20 to 30 tons over several days without encountering losses. Lastly, since we have a refrigerated truck for our deliveries, our buyers will be getting a much higher quality product as fruit and vegetables will be stored in cold spaces shortly after the moment they were picked.”

The right timing

The construction of the cooling facility began in March 2020 and was completed in the first weeks of May to be ready for the early picking of cherries.

"This was the right time for us to receive cold storage. The fruit is getting ready and so are we,” says Dževad and adds that now they will also be quicker to respond to the new orders they receive. “The capacity of the cooling facility is some 30 to 40 tons. This enables us to store recently harvested products in the facility and deliver it without delay to our buyers, which is a big plus in this business where we also compete with a lot of imports.”

“The use of the cool storage helps with more than just the heat. In September and October, when we pick grapes and pumpkins, there are also rainy periods when we cannot work in the field. With the cooling facility in place we will be able to follow the weather forecast and organize our picking days accordingly,” explains Dževad.

Further growth

Agrom-EM currently employs nine full-time and 15 seasonal workers and has 20 hectares of land in Mostar, and adjacent Čapljina and Stolac. They produce 350 tons of fruit and vegetables, and they buy an additional 100 tons from ten contracted farmers in the region.

While they sell their fruit to a domestic wholesale company, they sell 150 tons of their Hokkaido pumpkins directly to the Konzum retail chain.

“One needs to produce large quantities of products to be able to export, or to work directly with the retails chains, says Dževad. “The cooling facility will enable us to start buying an additional 50 tons of fruit and vegetables and also to increase our production by hiring three additional full-time workers.”

“Up to this point, we grew gradually year by year. We hope that now our growth will go even faster,” Dževad concludes.