The Sweden/USAID FARMA II project supported Eko-Bosanka Posavina in purchasing hazelnuts cleaning and drying equipment, and the company exported 42 tons of dried product to Croatia.
“Production of hazelnuts takes time,” says Pero Matić, the owner of Eko-Bosanka Posavina from Derventa, Northern Bosnia and Herzegovina. “Once you cultivate the land and plant the trees, it takes seven years for a hazelnut to start bearing fruit. Up to that point, all you have is expenses."
Eko-Bosanka is a large agricultural producer. Established in 2007 it now grows grain on 1,600 hectares. As of 2012, they started planting hazelnuts and since grew the orchard to 200 hectares. In 2020, the first planted 35 hectares started giving fruit, 1.2 tons per hectare. With 42 tons of product, they are now officially in the hazelnuts business!
Eko-Bosnaka started growing hazelnuts to diversify their production. In addition to the orchard, they have a nursery that produces 60,000 hazelnut seedlings a year, and also provides services such as land preparation, planting, and orchard maintenance to other interested growers. “There are about ten other people from this area who have decided to invest in the production of hazelnuts. They have an additional 80 hectares that are in different stages of development and we essentially manage those orchards for them,” explains Pero.
The EU is one of the largest world importers of edible nuts - 40 percent of global imports. With a sister company in Croatia, Eko-Bosanka will export all its hazelnuts to the EU.
“Hazelnuts indeed take seven years to start giving fruit, but the plant lasts for 50 years, so it is a long-term investment,” says Pero. He further notes that hazelnuts are special as they grow where other nut crops won't and all of the fruit is usable. “Out of one ton of hazelnuts dried in shell, we get 400 kilos of the kernel and 600 kilos of the shell. The kernel can be further processed or consumed, while the shell is used to produce heating pellets, so there is no waste.”
With zero waste and a secure market, Eko-Bosanka’s decision to enter the hazelnuts business was right. Their returns on the first produced 42 tons exceeded BAM 150,000.
Dried vs. fresh hazelnut
Being aware that hazelnuts are a product that can spoil if not processed and stored properly, Eko-Bosanka, in addition to investing in the orchard expansion, had to invest also in the hazelnut washing and drying equipment that would give its product a longer life-span. They applied for a grant with the Sweden/USAID FARMA II project that recognized the production potential and co-funding was approved.
“Thanks to the FARMA II project that joined forces with us we now have hazelnut processing equipment, and they also helped us implement the HACCP food safety system. While HACCP is one of the export prerequisites, dried hazelnuts can be stored for up to two years, which will ease the pressure when negotiating export deals. Furthermore, dried hazelnuts have a higher retail price, as a value-added product.”
Vision for 500 hectares
Pero's vision for the hazelnuts production includes further growth. "We plan to expand our orchard to 500 hectares and at one point reach the annual production of 1,500 tons of hazelnuts," he says.
As new plans are being forged and the expansion continues, next year will already see production growth. “In 2021, as the over-seven-years trees start giving greater yields, and new trees start giving first yields, we will have some 70 to 80 tons of hazelnuts. These quantities will grow year after year and that is what we want and what we need. The equipment we have in place now will suffice for at least five more years, before the expansion of processing capacities may become necessary. This period will give us some room to breathe and start enjoying fruits of our work,” he concludes.