How EU helps Khmelnytsky farmers produce dairy products according to European standards

Farmers of Khmelnytsky region have united and set up the Radodar dairy cooperative using a grant from the EU Community-Based Approach to Local Development programme. Learn how the cooperative expands its product range, plans to build new shops and get a decent profit.

On 1 January, the new milk standard, DSU 3662:2015 “Raw cow milk. Technical specifications” was expected to enter into force in Ukraine. According to this standard, Ukraine was to abolish procurements of the second-grade milk, the one bought directly from smallholders. It would have dealt a serious blow to villagers, because for many of them, milk is the main source of income. However, the government decided to improve the existing version of this standard and postponed its implementation until July.

As it turned out, the milk delivered by smallholders is of second grade and absolutely nonconformant with EU standards. Approximating the quality of Ukrainian milk to European standards is a requirement of the association with the EU. Overall, 35 percent of milk supplied to dairy plants in Ukraine comes from villagers. For milk processing enterprises, it is important to preserve this niche. Still, EU’s requirements would have to be complied with. How? By creating dairy cooperatives and farms. Nevertheless, they will continue accepting milk from smallholdings. However, if milk quality would not meet the applicable standards, it could not be used in food production. Therefore, the price for this milk would obviously be lower. Still, smallholders have time to get ready for new standards. Moreover, the region already has experience in creating and operating agricultural (including dairy) cooperatives. One of such cooperatives in Radisne, Krasyliv Raion has been operating for three years now. The cooperative brought together people from four villages and a khutor belonging to Shchyborivka Village Council. It was created with the help from the EU program “Community-oriented local development”.

Bryndza, ricotta, hard cheese, cream butter — everything’s own-produced

Everything has begun back in 2015, when Shchyborivka Village Council decided to join the EU program “Community-oriented local development”. Regarding the cooperative’s specialization, the villagers didn’t even give it a second thought, having unanimously decided to work in the dairy field. For most of them bred cattle, having not one cow but two, three or even seven. They were selling extra milk to dairy plants and making living of it, for there were no other jobs in the village. However, the price which milk processing plants offered for milk wasn’t very high: three hryvnias per liter at the time. And cows required a lot of care. Therefore, a dairy cooperative gave villagers hope for higher earnings and better prospects.

The milk processing equipment and refrigerating chamber were purchased with European financing.

We realized that together, we could receive more money for milk”, Halyna Boliukh, the head of Radodar cooperative says. “So, we wrote a business plan, and it was approved”.

67 persons have expressed desire to join the cooperative, soon followed by a few more, and today, their number has grown to 73. The terms of grant stipulated co-financing of the project: the EU provided 20 thousand dollars, members of the cooperative paid in a thousand hryvnias each, and the village council allocated a certain amount as well. With this money, the cooperative bought a two-ton milk cooler, a milk tank truck and laboratory equipment, and built a facility. The preparation took more than a year, and the cooperative was launched on 9 December 2016.

After completing the first project, the European Union allowed us to participate in another one, providing 10 thousand dollars in financing”, Mrs. Boliukh continues. “The village council also gave some money, and so did the cooperative’s members. With this money, we bought milk processing equipment, in particular, a cheese production plant. The project was completed in May of last year, and now, we are processing a portion of milk. We make bryndza and ricotta, which people in the surrounding villages and the district center gladly buy. Our foods contain no chemical additives of any kind, and we make cheese from milk only. Although for the time being, our production output is not that big”.

But members of the cooperative did not stop there, taking part in another project. This time, the European Union has allocated five thousand dollars. The village council and the cooperative’s members threw in some more, and the cooperative purchased a refrigerating chamber. Its plans also include production of hard cheese and cream butter.

In addition to cheese production, the villagers felt another benefit: financial. For now, dairy plants buy milk produced by the cooperative at a higher price than from smallholdings.

For the time being, we are unable to process the entire milk we have, so we sell some of it to Khmelnytskyi Dairy Plant”, Mrs. Boliukh continues. “We have equipment to measure the milk’s fat content, so we pay people for it. For a kilogram of milk (we count it in kilograms, not liters), people receive from 6.5 hryvnias up, and some even 8-9 hryvnias”.

By Olena Shchehelska

The original article is published by Khmelnytsky regional  Ye website