Nebojsa Spasojevic, one of the founders of Mlinpek Zavod which is an important representative of Serbian milling and bakery industry, commented on their works in Serbia and Turkish milling technologies companies: “In terms of price and quality, I must say that we changed our opinion from so/so, and not so bad to it is OK! I am not talking only about the quality of Turkish equipment. I also talk about the turn key investments from the beginning to the end of job; your experts are really worth of price. Also, your commercialists are extremely fast, meaning you can get an offer in couple of days which is not usual practice to everybody.”
Mlinpek Zavod is one of the important representatives of Serbian milling and bakery industry. Focusing on development of the industry both for training and for consultancy, the company gives services from trainings to planning, engineering and to consultancy for the industry. One of the founders of the company, Nebojsa Spasojevic shared his ideas both about their company and about Serbian milling industry and its development. Stating that there are more than 280 mills in Serbia, Spasojevic adds 85 percent of this is lower capacity and two largest mills operate with a capacity of 300 per day. Estimating that a transformation from many small-scale businesses to less larger-scale businesses will soon influence Serbia too as in the whole world, Spasojevic says companies try to be ready for this process.
What Nebojsa Spasojevic commented about Turkish technology companies at the end of the interview is highly remarkable. You can find the details in our interview.
Mr. Spasojevic, first of all, could you please give us some information about your company? What are your services and activities in the industry?
Mlinpek Zavod which was born in 1993 is 11-people private company from Novi Sad, Serbia. We are dealing with milling and baking industry, making project documentations - planning, engineering and consulting activity. Also, each year we have been organizing two expert conferences: Milling days and Baking days for the last 20 years. Once a month, we publish "Mlinpek Almanah" - the magazine for millers and bakers. And finally, we have some activities in importing equipment and spare parts for millers and bakers.
Could you please give us some information on the Serbian flour milling industry? What can you say about the number of the mills, milling capacities, technology usage level, and manufactured product groups?
I can say that Serbia now has more than 280 mills. 85% is a small capacity (less than 1,5t/h). The biggest two mills has 300t/24h. Regarding technology, couple years ago we got a first green field mill 150t/24h since I begin my professional carrier in 1987. Buhler technology mill - Danubius, with a capacity of 300 t/24 was erected in Novi Sad 5 years ago; one new Turkish mill is very close to start up and there are two or three more Turkish mill which were not older than 3 years. I think that you got the picture. We are using vary old machinery which are older than 30 years and just replacing some of them. Our technology level is better but it is close connected to equipment condition.
Manufactured product groups are these: flour T400 (semolina), T500, T850, T1100, special flour, bran and germ.
How is the approach of the milling companies towards the new technologies? Is there any increase in the recent milling and technology investments?
Wishes are on one side and possibilities on other. Everybody would like to introduce new technologies but the main problem is money. In mills where the owner is a miller who lives from this business you can see a big interest for investment, cost reduction, new technologies. But in mills where the owner belongs to other field of industry, the main interest is to reduce the cost of production, mainly to reduce the operator number, to use 150% of existing (very old) machines with minimum investments and more than maximum maintaining - like supermen skilled maintain operators.
Do all of the mills in Serbia realize their production completely for the domestic consumption? Are there any export activities of the mills in your country? If there are, which countries are the export targets and what is the amount of these exports?
Total wheat flour export activities in 2013 and 2014 were 188.382 ton and 154.224 ton respectively. Target countries and export amounts in 2013 and 2014 tons were Bosnia and Herzegovina , 57140 and 41322 tons , Monte Negro 45869 and 35516 tons, Macedonia 28239 and 32760 tons, Albania 7421 and 9541 tons, Slovenia 995 and 396 tons, Croatia 524 and 249 tons, Greece 97 tons, Angola 151 and 3599 tons, Kosovo 42256 and 30451 tons, others 2986 and 390 tons.
What is the level of raw material in your country? How much of the raw material processed in the mills is produced in your country, and how much of it imported? Which countries do you prefer for the imports?
Serbia produces about 2.000.000 t (3.079.000 tons in 2013 and 2.690.000 tons in 2014.) of wheat/year, almost exclusively domestic wheat. Sometimes we import wheat from Hungary and Austria due better quality; but it is an individual case. Serbia exported 1.087.481 tons of wheat in 2013 and 420.776 tons in 2014. Targeted countries in 2013 to export were Romania (682.050 tons), Monte Negro (66.099 tons), Italia (40.463 tons), Bosnia and Herzegovina (57.059 tons), Slovenia (25.208 tons), Macedonia (57.922 tons), Croatia (26.035 tons), Albania (35.320 tons), Kosovo (91.867 tons) and others (11.953 tons).
Could you please give some information on the flour consumption amount and consumption culture of Serbia? For instance; for which food products the flour is used and how is it consumed? What are the preferences of your consumers in bakery product consumption?
Serbia process about 1.200.000 tons of wheat per year and produce about 860.000 tons of flour. For bread production, we use 398.000 tons of flour, for rolls production it is 52.000 tons of flour, for pasta production 42.000 tons of flour and for confectionery 54.000 tons of flour. Domestic flour consumption is about 91.000 tons. Per capita, consumption of bread and rolls were 87,4 kg in 2013.
What do you think about the future development of your country in terms of both the improvement of the milling industry and consumption amounts and preferences of your country? What are your future expectations about your industry?
I think that milling industry in Serbia will slowly rise up in the future. Also I hope that we will expand our flour and bakery program with other cereal grains.
What do you think about your position when you compare your country to other European countries in terms of milling? What do you aim in order to strengthen the position of your industry throughout the world in the future?
My aim will not be enough; it must be collective concern. Milling industry in Serbia will survive. But, like everywhere, small mills will probably be closed and only, not so many, big one will stay. We, in Mlinpek Zavod, will continue to educate our millers and bakers to be ready when big players come.
Education is the only way to stay connected with highly developed countries in term of applying modern industry trends and using maximum of available land and grain potential.
As especially a company working in planning, engineering and consulting areas, do you have any projects for your industry that are being realized right now or will be realized in the coming years?
We are doing projects all the time and it is unfortunately mainly about reconstruction of existing, very old fashioned milling and baking facilities. Long term projects are, as mentioned, education through different courses and schooling, organizing expert seminars, like Milling and Baking Days, through publishing activity: "Mlinpek Almanah" - Magazine for millers and bakers, books (also translations of foreign books) about the matter.
Finally, what would you like to add about your company and the flour milling industry in your country?
What I would like to add about Mlinpek Zavod is "We are free to cooperate with everybody.” Regarding the other issues, your Miller magazine put the smile on me each time I received it and push me to spend some time to read it; congratulations! Your IDMA fair organization is excellent; there is no comment for this. Every time I feel better and better about it. You are also alive in publishing activity with The Miller`s Handbook.
Finally I would like to add something about Turkish milling companies and their activity in Serbia. In terms of price and quality, I must say that we changed our opinion from so/so and not so bad to it is OK. I am not talking only about the quality of Turkish equipment. I also talk about the turn key investments from the beginning to the end of job; your experts are really worth of price. Also, your commercialists are extremely fast, meaning you can get an offer in couple of days (with a unit equipment prices and all necessary drawings) which is not usual practice to everybody. In one word, your milling machinery producers are serious players in this ruthless milling race.....Congratulation!