Kereszturi is a dairy factory based in Cristuru Secuiesc, Harghita. The history of Kereszturi is the story of the breeders in the area; it is made of families, work and land. It all began in 2011, when local producers decided to set up the Tarnava Mare / Nagy Kukullo agricultural cooperative to better exploit their resources and make them more profitable. Every farmer invests money according to the head of cattle he owns, on average 3 cows per member.
In 2013 the cooperative decides to buy a factory in order to start processing the collected milk; the choice falls on an old butter factory at Cristuru Secuiesc. Today the factory has about 50 employees and collects and process the milk of 500 producers spread over 1/3 of the Harghita region; its products are pasteurized milk, yogurt, cream, butter and cheeses and they maintain the flavor of traditional cuisine.
The aim of the cooperative is to create more income for local farmers, in order to preserve the authenticity of people and land. Breeding cattle is not only the source of sustenance for many families, but also an actual way of life, particularly in these rural areas. Choosing an old butter factory is a further sign of the attachment of Kereszturi to traditions: the original recipes have been preserved and the genuine flavor is a link to the past.
The cooperative has also drawn up a statute with the members rights and duties, ideally acting for the common interest; for example, also those who do not own shares can deliver their milk to the cooperative, which will pay the market price; usually members receive something more instead, in addition to the profits of their initial investments. Moreover, no one can own more than 20% of the shares and the majority must remain composed of milk producers, in order to maintain the decision-making capacity on their own product; shareholders without animals represent around 10% of the cooperative.
Getting organized in a cooperative is a way to modernize the marketing system, improve incomes and provide additional services by involving the entire supply chain, from production, to the finished product, to sales. Infact in Romania about 37% of the population is a farmer and, despite good fortune people have with their own land, it is often not possible for them to keep up to date and to fully exploit their capabilities. In particular, it is easy to see how in rural areas, such as Szeklerland (counties in which there is a high concentration of Hungarian population), young people are leaving the homeland.
Small farmers have few chances to capitalize their own work and the solution of the cooperative offers an important incentive for rural development and creates new jobs and opportunities for young people. Romania has one of the highest selling prices of milk to consumers in Europe, but one of the lowest purchase prices offered by big processing companies, which often even fails to cover the cost of animals maintaining. Furthermore, the competition from imported dairy products, especially from Hungary and Poland, does not help the local economy which is unable to compete in prices.
Author: Eleonora Chelazzi