The Sweden/USAID FARMA II project helped BKV Group Ltd. from Bileća, Eastern Hercegovina, purchase production equipment and brand their products. BKV is now ready to launch new high-quality honey under the Kozjak trademark.

The BKV Group Ltd. was established in Bileća, in 2011. At first it functioned as an agricultural pharmacy that traded in beekeeping and other agricultural equipment, raw materials, and produced bee feed. According to Rade Kozjak, who heads the company, working with beekeepers from Bileća, Trebinje, Stolac, Čapljina, and other nearby towns made them want to become a honey producer too.

“Instead of constantly seeing imported honey on the supermarket shelves, we wanted to offer a domestic, local Herzegovinian honey to the BiH market, and also to start exporting it,” says Rade.

“But we did not want it to be just any kind of honey. We wanted to offer the top quality product, controlled in adequate laboratories, which would initially be a purely Herzegovinian, and once our business developed, we would be looking to also include honey from other parts of the country," he elaborates.

Perfect timing

Just as the BKV Group Ltd. defined their new and additional business activity, in 2017 the Sweden/USAID FARMA II project issued a call for project proposals that would contribute to the competitiveness of the BiH’s beekeeping sector. “We noticed the call, and in it, we saw the opportunity to bring our plans to fruition,” says Rade.

“We had the 3,500 square meter facilities which we could transform into the honey processing factory. So we invested in the renovation of our facilities, and the FARMA II project provided funding for the honey and honeydew packaging machines. With those machines, we can now package honey in 100 to 1000 gram jars, and small container or blister packages from 5 to 30 grams for the HoReCa sector,” explains Rade. “While the machines covered the operational side of the whole story, the project also helped us develop our Kozjak brand, all the labels, and the professional website too.”

Part of the support provided to BVK also included training for ten young beekeepers, who would become their future contractual farmers, while the Kozjak honey’s social media manager recently attended the Sweden/USAID FARMA II provided webinars on online sales and promotion.

Growing the beekeeping sector

BKV developed the range of 38 honey-based Kozjak products. To launch the first three products, Herzegovinian Honey, Kids’ Honey, and Honey with Walnuts, Almonds, and Hazelnuts, they contracted some 50 beekeepers from whom they buy honey, and they want to further expand their network of beekeepers.

"We took our time to develop our brand and to put everything in place in the production line. This year we have made our first products, and though we are just about to start selling our honey on the BiH market, I can say that we do not have enough of it. We have some 10 tons which is the minimum we need to be able to offer our products to the big retail chains," says Rade.

“Part of our business plan is also to export, and for that, we will need to be able to buy much more honey. We are now negotiating with one of the bigger retail chains in BiH to start selling our products, and we have had contact with a potential importer in Montenegro. We hope this all goes well, and when it does, we will be looking to work with as many beekeepers as possible here in Hercegovina and the entire BiH. Until then, we’ll keep our fingers crossed and hope that very, very, soon everyone in BiH will have a chance to try Kozjak honey and be impressed,” highlights Rade.