Intensively engaged in agriculture since he was 13, and today, as a farmer and veterinary technician, 24-year-old Mehmed Alagić from the village of Fajtovci near Sanski Most runs a farm with about 60 dairy cows, calves and bulls, and cultivates some 100 hectares of land. Due to his father’s poor health, already as a young boy he took over part of the work and care at Bego Farm, and today, together with his wife Admira, a former friend from school, and his mother Hatema, he produces around 800 litres of cow’s milk a day.
Mehmed and Admira plan to expand the business with cows and milk production at Bego Farm. They plan to build a new barn come summer that could accommodate about 70 dairy cows. They also want to introduce machine milking, which will greatly help their work, but also help production growth – at least by a third, as they estimate.
There is no grain storage silos in the Una-Sana Canton, and Mehmed finds this as one of the urgent priorities for agricultural sector, especially in light of the current crisis on the European market.
More than seven million litres of milk were produced in Sanski Most in 2021. The president of the Alliance of Local Associations of Farmers of Sanski Most, Husein Selimović, explains that due to the increase in the price of agricultural equipment and raw materials, many are giving up farming, and that today there is only one third of milk producers compared to 15 years ago.
“Milk production is a demanding job. It is a huge responsibility when it comes to the quality of production. Many could not meet the standards, some did not have suitable facilities for housing livestock, some did not have the machinery. This farm is a positive example, it employs three of them, and you can tell that they are professionals,” says Selimović about Bego Farm.
“And in preparing such calls for projects, farmers who are champions and take this seriously must be recognised. Admira works as does any female farmer in the world, gets on the tractor and does everything. And that requires appropriate machinery,” he adds.
Admira explains that farm work starts early in the morning, usually around five or six, when the cows are first fed and milked. After that, if the weather is good enough, they go to work in the field, and if she sometimes finds some time, Admira prepares and sells cheeses of different flavours.
“The problem is that there are no people, no one to pay to work,” says Admira, adding that many young people have left this area, but she and Mehmed conclude with a smile that “someone needs to stay here.”
Fertilizer and animal feed procurement prices are also a problem for Bego Farm and, as Mehmed explains, milk producers need greater incentives for production.
“Milk production was profitable until the prices went up for concentrate, which is an additional mixture for feeding cows. Now we are building a new facility where we plan to install a robot to milk the cows. However, if the price of milk does not improve in the coming period, we will either do something else or switch to fattening, something that brings less money but is easier to earn. Milking is the most responsible task,” he says.
The equipment acquired through EU4AGRI project greatly facilitated the work at Bego Farm and Mehmed recommends other farmers to apply.
The total value of the project-supported investment is about BAM 78,780.00, of which the amount of co-financing by the European Union was about BAM 51,207.00.
“The biggest problem for farmers is paperwork and bureaucracy, as far as construction facilities are concerned. This is not such a problem in itself at all, but the problem is that municipal services are slow. It’s the red tape that burdens us”, he explains and concludes that this is a great opportunity for farmers and that he plans to apply again.
EU4AGRI project has so far provided support to 59 farmers in BiH and companies with investments of a total value of BAM 14.85 million, of which BAM 7.59 million was financed by the EU.
As part of EU4AGRI, the EU provides support for strengthening the competitiveness of agriculture and rural development in BiH. Through EU4AGRI-Recovery, the EU helps Bosnia and Herzegovina in mitigating the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on agri-food companies and rural tourism operators, and ensuring their business continuity, and through EU4BusinessRecovery mitigates consequences caused by the pandemic on agricultural and tourism companies, micro, small and medium enterprises. The European Union allocated EUR 28 million for all three projects.