Dry-cured ham is a specialty of Njeguši, a village near the city of Cetinje in Montenegro. It is known for its particular flavour and aroma which is the result of the mixture of sea and mountain air and beech wood burned during the drying process. It is a familiar flavour for Montenegrins and visitors to the country, and now a company from Montenegro is working on introducing it across the Western Balkan region and wider market.
Mediteranea is a medium-sized Montenegrin family business owned by husband and wife Marija and Ivan Špadijer. The company started small as a distributor of meat products in 2006 and has increased its revenue gradually, with Njeguški prosciutto becoming one of their main products. Ivan explains that the prosciutto requires complex production: the curing process includes salting with sea salt for about three weeks, pressing to remove excess liquid for a further three weeks, and light smoking and drying in the cool mountain breeze for three months followed by maturing. The whole process takes about a year.
Ivan Špadijer, Owner, Mediteranea
For around ten years, Mediteranea purchased the prosciutto from producers in the Njeguši area and it was packaged by other subcontractors. The business was going well, and the market was expanding but this growth came with challenges. The quality of the raw product was constant but the company started having issues with the packaging. Ivan explains that they started receiving requests from customers for improved quality of packaging. “Our subcontractors weren’t able to meet these requests properly so we decided to take over and do the packaging on our own,” he says.
For this they needed additional equipment and facilities as this was a new area for the company. Initially they invested with their own capacities but this was not enough to meet demand. They therefore decided to apply for support from the EU’s Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance for Rural Development, IPARD. As a result, they received almost €35,000 of additional equipment including a packaging machine and two electric chain cranes, lifting to heights of up to 11 metres.
Mediteranea now produces and distributes over 50 tonnes of final products annually. They have many clients, among them hotel and restaurants and supermarket chains. Around 90% of their revenue comes from export. While the production is still covered by subcontractors in the Njeguši area, the packaging and distribution is now fully covered by the company. They have also doubled the size of their team from four to eight and are planning to increase it further.
Ivan explains that the EU support was crucial to this success story. ”If it wasn’t for the EU’s support through IPARD, we would be still struggling. The support received from IPARD made us more independent and helped us take control of the destiny and success of our company,” he says.
About the programme
Part of the Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance (IPA) designed to support reforms in countries in the process of joining the EU, the Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance for Rural Development (IPARD) focuses on the agri-food sectors of those countries and rural areas. Through this tool, the EU provides beneficiaries with financial and technical help to make their agricultural sector and rural areas more sustainable, aligning them with the EU’s common agricultural policy.
Photo credits: EU Delegation to Montenegro, Mediteranea
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