FAO Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia

Kazakhstan looks to Croatia for lessons on upgrading dairy industry standards

Kazakhstan, seeking to comply with Eurasian Economic Union standards, is looking to Croatia for inspiration. Croatia successfully upgraded its dairy industry to meet stringent European Union quality and food safety standards – a move resulting in greater industry efficiency, inclusiveness, and dairy exports.

FAO and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) in close collaboration with Croatia’s Ministry of Agriculture and the Chamber of Commerce – Croatian Dairy Purchasers & Producers Association (CroMilk), recently organized a knowledge exchange with Croatia for a Kazakh delegation. The delegation included representatives from the country’s Ministries of Agriculture, Health, and Industry and Infrastructural Development, the Dairy Union, the National Chamber of Entrepreneurs and the Consumer Protection Union.

Over a period of five days, the group visited dairy farms, processing plants, Croatia’s central milk quality laboratory, and retail outlets to learn more from their peers along the supply chain.

Kazakhstan’s Vice-Minister of Agriculture Gulmira Issayeva was particularly impressed by how efficiently Croatia’s dairy industry managed to consolidate and meet the EU standards, and by how the Government and businesses worked together.

“As we enter this final stage of compliance in Kazakhstan, we need to make decisions together with the dairy farmers and milk processors,” Issayeva said. “This study tour helped us become more familiar with the best practices for milk production, collection, and processing, as well as with the system of state regulation and support for the national dairy industry, which ultimately guarantees the safety of consumer products.”

Lean and efficient

Much like in Kazakhstan, roughly 80 percent of Croatia’s raw milk supplies came from small family farmers, many with as few as five cows.

Thanks to persistent policies applied over the past decade and a half, Croatia consolidated its dairy industry while introducing food safety standards. During this process, the country still managed to ensure a stable flow of raw milk without being bogged down by milk powder imports. In fact, Croatia even doubled its dairy exports in the last five years.

Of particular interest for the Kazakh delegation was Croatia’s central laboratory that monitors the quantity, quality, and safety of raw milk supplies in the country.

Government-financed extension agents, using data from this laboratory, continuously train and support farmers to comply with the EU norms and improve animal productivity.

Producer prices provide incentives to meet industry standards. Through a strong system of controls and enforcement, farmers whose raw milk consistently falls short of the required parameters – somatic cell count, bacteria plate count, absence of antibiotics – eventually lose access to the supply chain.

Towards safer raw milk

The exchange was part of a broader FAO/EBRD initiative in support of a more inclusive and competitive dairy industry in Kazakhstan.

In recent years, FAO and the EBRD have introduced digital technology in Kazakhstan, such as the Collect Mobile application, used for greater efficiency along the supply chain, acting as a bridge between milk processors and their suppliers.

They have also created user-friendly knowledge materials, including posters, Smart Milk animations, and a pocketbook manual, to ensure everyone – especially small family farmers – understands the industry requirements. These materials give practical tips on how to meet the requirements without making heavy investments.

In 2019, the Government of Kazakhstan signed a roadmap document underscoring a commitment to improve the quality and safety of its raw milk and dairy products.

Vladimir Kozhevnikov, Executive Director of the Dairy Union of Kazakhstan, which represents the milk-processing companies, emphasized that the Croatian exchange experience provided the Kazakh delegation with greater clarity on how to build a more competitive domestic dairy industry.

“We know we need to amend our roadmap, and thanks to this exchange, we know what we need to do in order to develop a strategy in terms of public investments and regulatory adjustments that will help us transition to meet the new requirements. I liked the phased approach our colleagues from Croatia used. They obtained great results after almost 16 years. We’ve only been doing this for two-and-a-half years,” he said.

With a common vision and ongoing public–private policy dialogue, Kazakhstan is well on its way to a stronger, more efficient, and safer dairy industry.

29 January 2020, Zagreb, Croatia