Dušan Radičević, Al Dahra Serbia CEO

Alfalfa Will Be Our Export Ace

Since procuring the assets of PKB, Al Dahra has modernised its plants, machinery and tools, and invested 50 million euros to improve production, while it will invest another 20 million euros over the next three years

MThe most modern factory for the processing of alfalfa has been built, and 40 people will be employed to work there immediately, because Al Dahra – as a global player – has secured its market. Trial production is planned for this September, with the factory set to start operating at full capacity next year.

In the less than three years since PKB was procured, plants, machines and tools have been modernised, while production processes have been improved and modernised. Everything is different today…

To start, I would just like to say that we, as AL Dahra, bought the assets of PKB and not PKB as a company. In a relatively short period, almost 50 million euros was invested in renewing equipment and machinery, as well as in the plant for processing alfalfa. Specifically, the machines purchased together with the rest of PKB’s assets were in a pretty poor condition and it wasn’t possible to achieve efficiency through the application of new technologies with such equipment. Over the next three years, we plan to invest an additional 20 million euros in machines that are used in crop farming.

When it comes to the alfalfa factory, the plan is to develop intensive and longstanding cooperation with the farmers that surround our facility, in order to additionally engage the factory so that it operates in three shifts. Apart from all of that, we are also committed to irrigation and drainage projects, because sustainable agricultural production is only possible if drainage and irrigation systems exist. Initial estimates suggest that our investment in these systems will total more than 75 million euros.

There is also a third segment of our operations: milk production, in which we also plan significant investments over the next year. We are additionally considering the construction of a biogas facility.

The investment in drainage and irrigation systems, which represents an extremely complex and expensive project, will exceed 75 million euros

When you were appointed as the new CEO half a year ago, you presented very ambitious plans for the company. Do you still possess that initial enthusiasm?

All investments are unfolding according to plan, in principle. The alfalfa factory is the first to be made operational, and that’s something we’re very proud of. That was an extremely challenging project, bearing in mind the equipment arriving from various countries. And despite everything, operations at the factory are starting on time and we expect to export the first quantities of product this year. The entire production is intended for export.

We aren’t lacking in enthusiasm, because we see the results of the more than thousand people who work at Al Dahra every day. Thus, today, for the first time in 30 years, the citizens of Vrbovsko can open their windows and breathe air that doesn’t have an unpleasant odour. We treated the canals so that there are no more unpleasant odours and, more importantly, life has returned to them. We have cleared a major dump that was located on one of our fields, while we are currently planning to clean another. We won’t stop there. We’re planning more activities.

You are focused on investing in a new alfalfa plant, an animal fodder factory and the modernisation of dairy farms. How much will that increase your yields and revenue?

Through investments related to crop farming, we plan to increased yields by 10% to 50% depending on the crop, which will allow us to generate profits that are acceptable to a company of this size. Our idea is to take a company with heavy losses, which we inherited in a way, and create a profitable and sustainable company.

By Joschka Fischer / Project Syndicate

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