IBCM’s Business Club took place on September 30th in the Riverview campus on the theme of “Business Dialogue”, concentrating on the agriculture and food industry with the specific intention of connecting producers from the north, including Mitrovica and Zvecan, with markets and authorities in the south. The event was moderated by Mr. Vladimir Jeremic, IBCM Marketing and Management Lecturer. Special guests included Mr. Nazmi Pllana, Executive Director of the Kosovo Center for Business Support and Mr. Zijadin Gojnovci, an expert working in the Agriculture Advisory Services in the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Rural Development of Kosovo (MAFRD). Participants from north Mitrovica included large and medium producers of wine, honey, alcoholic beverages, nuts, berries, goat cheese and other products.
The business owners began by introducing their products but also their needs and expectations of the business club session – to learn more about accessing markets in the south, access to grants and further understanding of how to develop a business plan. Mr. Gojnovci started with the basics: he explained the importance of learning the basic rules, principles, and standards of the European Union framework. There are a number of criteria that businesses need to meet that will involve a fair amount of administrative detail, the first step being to register with MAFRD. From there they could further learn about applying for various certificates that would verify the quality of their products in areas such as food hygiene. Only by first meeting these standards would businesses become more attractive to retailers but also protect the business owners. He stated there are a number of questions the producers should learn in order to expand their sales. He offered to help coordinate further consultation between MAFRD and these businesses as the basic but essential starting point for access to new markets.
The discussion continued by Mr. Nazmi Pllana, Executive Director of Kosovo Center for Business Support (KCBS), who explained their work: KCBS is an NGO that was founded in 2012 and collaborates with entrepreneurs. Their activities include training farmers to produce according to EU standards, coordinate their efforts to meet these standards and advise them on the main problem they face: where to sell! They have also donated greenhouses and other resources and approved grants that support small business development. He shared his experience on how the negotiating process started with the South retailers, their standards of working with the farmers on details such as contract requirements on purchase capacity and the experience of farmers who already sell in south Mitrovica.
He acknowledged a gap in their current activities: that they were not sufficiently connected to or integrated with the producers in the north. There is opportunity to bridge this gap through an upcoming project proposal and participants will be informed on when and how they can apply.
The business dialogue can be said to have started. Many of the businesses brought samples of their products and there was a great detail of exchange and specific recommendations to the producers, as well as sampling of the products. From the perspective of small businesses, they expressed a need for further training in the development of business plans and whether IBCM could facilitate their training and knowledge of business planning, but also access to finance. IBCM will follow up on this request to see that there is both continued dialogue but also introducing the new knowledge and skills that are essential for growing a business.
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