Sweden/USAID FARMA II project helps Jaffa Komerc from Mostar to meet EU packaging standards for the export of fruit and vegetables.

“Just walk after me for a day, and then tell me if you got tired,” said Nedim Badžak, 37, Director of Jaffa Komerc from Mostar, which produces 2,500 tons of fruit and vegetables on 90 hectares of land.

"I am working in the fields since I was seven. The season is on, and I had no time to go to the office for five days now,” he continued.

Family business

As we set to talk to Nedim under the two cherry trees, just outside their cooling and sorting facility and made him take a break, his father Hamo arrived.

Hamo retired seven years ago and passed the torch on to Nedim, who now heads the company. “I cannot stay away from the fields,” he said, and after a short introduction left to go work. When asked, how is Nedim managing the business?, with a smile he said: “Well, he’s still practicing.”

Hamo established the Jaffa Komerc back in 1985. He first started trading and exporting fruit and vegetables. In 1997, they started their own production of cherries, strawberries, peaches, nectarines, grapes, and young potatoes. Nonetheless they still buy some 1,500 tons of products from 450 smaller farmers from the wider Southeastern region of Bosnia and Herzegovina. "We have contracts with farmers all the way from Stolac, over Nevesinje, Jablanica to Posušje. The old potatoes we buy from Glamoč and Kupres,” said Nedim, and added that their 90 hectares of the land stretch between Blagaj and Malo Polje.

Exporting far and close

Jaffa Komerc exports 60 percent of the total of 4,000 tons of fruit and vegetable they produce and buy. Their main EU markets are Croatia, Austria, and Germany, but Jaffa Komerc also exports to other international markets.

This is where the Sweden/USAID FARMA II project’s support came in handy. “In 2019, the EU introduced the regulation which required that cherries and strawberries be packed in a perforated plastic before being sold. Naturally some of our clients from the EU requested that we start following that rule as they do not have their own packaging machines, which are rather expensive,” noted Nedim.

“The packaging machines were not easy to come by some year ago, and we were not ready for such a big investment.  But when we received the grant from the FARMA II project, which covered one-third of the investment, we decided to go ahead with the purchase.”

Added value

In one minute, the flow-pack machine can package up to 80 baskets of fruit or larger vegetables, such as lettuce or cabbage. With five people working on the machine at full capacity, they can pack up to 20 tons of products a day, which is an equivalent of a truck-load.

“Though expensive, the machine was a good investment. We managed to maintain our EU clients, and in addition, pre-packaged products are ten percent more expensive so our prices and profits also went up,” said Nedim.

The flow-pack machine can also label the products, and what comes of the machine are fully domestic products; Nedim prints the labels for his foreign clients in a print house in Čitluk, just south of Mostar, while the machines thermal printer is used to add a production date and similar info.

According to Nedim, packaging certain fruits will become a requirement also in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and he is happy to be ahead of the game.

Jaffa Komerc has 25 permanently employed and some 100 seasonal workers. “With the new packaging machine in place and increased demand for fruit and vegetables during the COVID-19 pandemic, we hired two additional permanent workers. We have grown this big over the last 23 years, and I hope we will continue to grow also in the future,” concluded Nedim.