‘Our long-dreamed equipment is now here’: A years-long dream come true thanks to EU4Business assistance

Cow, sheep and goat milk from pastures in Herzegovina is a valuable ingredient in cheeses that the Puđa family of Livno has been producing for decades, based on traditional recipe. Thanks to the assistance of the European Union, years-long dream came true for this family to have a modern cheese factory to continue production of its award-winning cheeses.

“Today we have modern equipment as we used to see abroad and dream about. With the help of this project, we managed to retain all subcontractors and staff, but also engage new ones in the year of the global pandemic. This, I believe, is our most successful year so far” says Tomislav Puđa, owner of the Eco Cheese Puđa dairy.

Growing up with his grandparents and parents, all engaged in dairy farming, Tomislav picked up the secrets of successful production of premium cheese according to recipes brought to the Livno region by the Austro-Hungarians more than a century ago.

Eco Cheese Puđa today produces a dozen of different types of cheese. A testament to its quality are awards from various fairs; here the gold medal from the International Cheese Fair held in Austria in 2014 stands out in its importance.

Guided by the idea to modernise production process and long-term strengthening of the position on the domestic and foreign markets, the dairy applied for a public call for grants published within EU4Business project funded by the European Union and the Federal Republic of Germany and implemented by UNDP in BiH, ILO and GIZ.

Thanks to the project, the dairy replaced two obsolete cheese-making tubs with larger and modern ones, procured cutting and weighing machines, new shelves in the ripening facilities, and also installed systems for maintaining the microclimate in the dairy. Also, various construction works have contributed to improving the overall quality of the production process in the dairy.

The total value of this ever so important investment for the dairy amounted to over BAM 749,000, of which the European Union provided nearly BAM 290,000 in grants. Modern equipment has improved the workflow and quality, reduced production costs, but also contributed to increased productivity.

“Modern technology has reduced errors to a minimum which is important to us in terms of quality continuity. One thing we saw right off is that the new equipment has better milk utilisation, meaning that today we get more cheese with the same amount of milk. As a result, are market competitiveness is now improved,” says Tomislav.

Nearly 40 work in various jobs in the dairy, including seven employed thanks to the investment of EU4Business project. New hires will increase production levels, but also ensure better product quality control.

“People are our greatest asset. With the new machines, our workers are better off and working conditions are better. We used to have outdated machines that were difficult to maintain and clean, and with the new ones, workers can do the job easier and faster,” explains Tomislav.

Once cheese is removed from the mould, it is placed on shelves in ripening facilities for at least 90 days. During this time, cheese is rotated regularly and their quality is checked. This is the task of 23-year-old Petar Krešimir, who landed this job thanks to EU4Business project.

“I applied to several vacancies but go my employment opportunity here. I’ve learned a lot in this line of business, and I’m still learning. I am young and my life is only just beginning; this is an opportunity that allowed me with something to live on and to afford things I could not have before,” says Petar Krešimir with a smile.

The improvements achieved through EU4Business project for the Eco Cheese Puđa Dairy mean new opportunities for expanding the production and marketing of cheese outside the borders of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

“We had inquiries earlier for more exports of our cheeses, but we were not in a position to have serious negotiations with customers. I think they had their doubts since we had more modest equipment and we did not come across as being able to produce larger quantities of products. This project has helped us showcase that we are serious and that we can do it,” concludes Tomislav, hoping that in 2021 his cheeses will reach the homes of customers around the globe.

EU4Business is European Union’s project that aims to strengthen Bosnia and Herzegovina’s capacity for economic growth and employment by fostering competitiveness and innovation in selected sectors. EU4Business is worth EUR 16.1 million; EUR 15 million is funded by the European Union and EUR 1.1 million by the Federal Republic of Germany. Project is jointly implemented by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), UNDP and International Labor Organisation (ILO). EU4Business is part of the Local Development Strategies – Local Self-Government and Economic Development Programme in Bosnia and Herzegovina by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).