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World Milk Day is June 1 and the right time to show appreciation for the BiH’s dairy industry. The dairy industry provided hefty support to the health sector and those in need during the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, exports of milk resumed to Kosovo after the lifting of trade-prohibitive tariffs in effect for more than a year.

“Milk is an essential food," says Adnan Fakić, Director of Milkos, a dairy producer from Sarajevo with an almost 70-year long tradition.

“The pandemic forced us to change the way we do business. On March 5, we established our Crisis Management Body and introduced new measures including the use of protective gear and the disinfection of vehicles,” explains Adin. “More importantly, the distribution of our products became much more frequent and we never allowed a shortage of dairy products in the shops.”

Important social actors

Adin says that Milkos is an active social actor since 1953 when it was established as the first dairy factory in Bosnia and Herzegovina. “We do not advertise this, but we supported the work of public kitchens, on regular basis, and we also support orphanages and centers for children with special needs. We mainly provided milk, cheese, and cream cheese to those institutions."

Their support did not lack during the pandemic either. Milkos donated dairy products worth over BAM 100,000 to different charity organizations such as Pomozi.ba, and also directly to households in need.

Four of the largest dairy producers in BiH, Milkos, Mlijekoprodukt, Meggle, and the Association of Dairy Farmers of Republika Srpske, donated more than BAM 400,000 both in money and products to support the health sector and those in need.

Social responsibility

However, it is not only the donation and support to those in need that counts. There is also the entire value chain, which in the case of Milkos includes more than 1,000 contracted farmers, a distribution company with 200 employees, and the Spreča Farm, which employs additional 70 people and is co-owned by Milkos.

“It was very important for us to continue buying the milk from our farmers, and for our farmers to continue getting paid,” says Adin. “This was not an easy task as our operational costs increased due to the pandemic prevention measures. We also had to invest quite a bit in the bulk import of Tetra Pak packaging from Serbia. Due to long cueing at the borders and irregular deliveries, we had to establish a stock that enabled us to maintain the regular production flows.”

Milkos buys some 24 million liters of milk annually. “The pandemic did not stop us from buying everything that farmers produced and we are particularly proud of that accomplishment,” says Adin. He adds that Milkos is a socially responsible company and that it makes him happy to be recognized by their consumers.

Going back to the Kosovo market

Milkos exports 25 percent of its products to the CEFTA countries, and Croatia. After Kosovo lifted the 100 percent import tariffs for products from Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina on April 1, 2020 (tariffs were imposed on November 21, 2018), Milkos resumed its exports to Kosovo which accounted for one-fifth of their sales outside of BiH.

“We stayed in touch with our buyers from Kosovo this entire time. They called us a few days before the tariffs were officially lifted to let us know that we will be able to work with them again. We resumed our exports as soon as the official decision was made,” says Adin.

While their sales of dairy products in BiH and exports were not affected by the pandemic, that was not the case with some other products and brands under the Milkos umbrella. The sales of their water and juices dropped by 40 to 50 percent.

“As the HoReCa sector slowly reopens, we hope that sales of our non-dairy products will increase back to their previous levels. For the time being, we are focusing on keeping our farmers busy and on supplying enough dairy products to our clients,” concludes Adin.

The slogan for the World Milk Day is “Enjoy Dairy”, so we invite everyone to show appreciation for the social responsibility of the BiH’s dairy sector, consume an extra dairy product today, and join the Milky Way of Social Responsibility. As you do that, the Sweden/USAID FARMA II project will continue helping the BiH dairy sector to meet the EU and other international quality and food safety standards in order to provide improved quality dairy products for consumers while increasing exports.