Kupres Cheese and Its Breakthrough on the Foreign Markets

Smail Žilić started producing Kupres cheese two and a half years ago, and today he is already exporting it

Smail Žilić started producing Kupres cheese two and a half years ago, and today he is already exporting it

Agricultural and Trading Cooperative BH Milch started producing the unique Kupres cheese at the end of 2014. In a matter of months, they have significantly increased the volume of production and developed the assortment of five kinds of cheese, and the procurement of the milk cooling tank was very helpful in this regard. The equipment was procured due to a donation of the United Nations Trust Fund for Human Security (UNTFHS), within the “Applying the Human Security Concept to Stabilize Communities in Canton 10” project.

Due to the reliable purchase and regular income, the number of farmers from whom the milk is purchased was more than doubled – it increased from 15 to 40. After the increase in quantity, the time came for the new step forward – to increase the quality of milk.

Within the same project, Smail and some of his supplies received once more a donation of milk cooling equipment, milk buckets, milk metres and other equipment, enabling them to increase the standards of hygiene and prolong the freshness of milk.

“Thanks to this equipment, the quality of milk is significantly increased and the number of microorganisms within milk in reduced. For example, for some suppliers the number of microorganisms per cm3 reached 15 million in the beginning, and now it is 0 to 100,000 which is at European standard,” Smail says.

The quality of milk is regularly controlled by the Veterinary Station, and BH Milch, pays higher per litre price for the first class milk.

The BH Milch products have quickly conquered the selves of the domestic supermarkets. The next logical step was to try a breakthrough onto the foreign market. However, some important prerequisites had to be fulfilled. One of those was obtaining a certificate for HACCP, an international system for ensuring health safety of food, and it was successfully obtained.

Mirjana Kuštro and her family can now live off dairy productionMirjana Kuštro and her family can now live off dairy production

Also, export demands significantly larger quantities of the product, which in turn demands bigger quantities of milk. Due to stabile cooperation and the achieved level of trust, farmers saw the possibility of profit and took the risk of increasing their herds, so most of them doubled the number of animals.

Mirjana and Ivan Kuštro are returnees to Vrila. Their farming community produces milk and it consists of their own family, and the family of Ivan’s brother with a total of 11 members. They are planning to increase the production, and they have built a big modern barn for new animals.

“When we started working with Mr. Žilić, we had 16 milk cows. We have increased the herd, and now we have 20 milk cows, 16 pregnant heifers and 40 beef bulls. Now we have something we can live off, and we also hope for better cooperation,” says Mirjana.

BH Milch started with two employees, and today it has seven. The first batch of cheese for export to Turkey is ready, the arrangements are being finalized for sale in Serbia and Monte Negro, and there is a prospect of an arrangement for Albania. The entire production of a new cheese in the BH Milch assortment – the combination of a cow’s and goat’s milk cheese – is reserved for a buyer from the United Arab Emirates.

BH Milch started with two employees. Today, there are seven.BH Milch started with two employees. Today, there are seven.

The question is, what inspired Smail, an energetic man in his 50s, to start producing cheese in Kupres, thus spending workdays almost 200 kilometres away from home, and the rest of his family who are in Sarajevo handling distribution? For most part, the answer can be obtained from the address of his Cheese Plant: Medicinal Herbs Road. Namely, the altitude of 1200 metres and the herbs that the animals graze on, offer the unique conditions for animal farming and dairy production, and Smail, being an agricultural engineer, recognized that. Kupres plains are endowed with 92 different medicinal and aromatic herbs, out of which 24 are endemic.

Smail jokingly says that cheese with aromatic herbs is made by letting the round of cheese roll down from the top of the Stožer Mountain – “and what sticks to it – it sticks.”

The rise of BH Milch is an example how to best use potentials abundant in B&H and achieve results that at first looked unattainable. This is achieved through clear vision, expert knowledge, and hard work, accompanied by right and well-aimed support.

Securing better conditions of life, improving social services and other forms of support for vulnerable groups are just some of the goals of the “Applying the Human Security Concept to Stabilize Communities in Canton 10” project jointly implemented by UNDP, UNHCR, UNICEF and IOM agencies in partnership with Canton 10 Government, municipal authorities and civil society organizations. The project is funded by the UN Trust Fund for Human Security (UNTFHS).