By Vera Kholmogorova
No one doubts the perfect quality of Belarusian dairy products. Our sour cream is thick and our yoghurt is natural and live. However, our beloved cottage cheese, cheese and sour cream rely on the use of imported ingredients. These add special flavour and make it possible to create various tasty dairy products. Of course, such imports do not come cheaply; last year, about $15m was spent on Dutch, Danish, French, Italian and Bulgarian Lactic acid bacterium. Belarus is a globally recognised ‘milk state’, producing 6m tonnes of milk annually; it plans to raise the volume to 10m tonnes within the next four years. At present, Belarusian cheeses claim almost 7 percent of world sales, while butter accounts for 10 percent.
We have the production technologies but, until recently, have lacked the necessary components. Only small amounts are produced by the National Academy of Sciences’ Meat and Dairy Industry Institute, making us dependant on foreign imports, despite boasting ‘milk rivers’. With this in mind, several years ago, a top level decision was made to set up a modern science-intensive import-substitution facility in the Republic, producing starter materials for the dairy industry. It took over two years for your scientists to launch an innovative site for the synthesis and production of dried bacterial concentrates, located at the Meat and Dairy Industry Institute. Belarus’ dairy factories have already received their first supplies of domestically made ferments. Not long ago, Prime Minister Mikhail Myasnikovich cut the red ribbon on the new facility. Until recently, he headed the National Academy of Sciences and, naturally, assessed the workshop as being superb.
Our scientists are proud, with the Meat and Dairy Industry Institute’s Director, Alexey Meleshchenya, stressing, “This facility is unique both in Belarus and throughout the CIS. It is our first experience, so has proved a challenge, but it’s proof that scientists and industry can solve even the most unique tasks.”
There are several reasons why the Belarusian project is successful. Firstly, it has been realised in a short period of time, based exclusively on our scientists’ developments. Secondly, its concentrates are produced from microbial strains raised in Belarus. The collection numbers over 2,000, with scientists developing and testing about 40 strain combinations suitable for the production of fermented milk products and for use in agriculture. The workshop can produce 3,500kg of dried bacterial concentrates a year, saving the state $2m in imports.
According to Mr. Meleshchenya, production capacities will become fully operational soon, once the final adjustments are made. Much will depend on whether buyers approve of the taste and price of our domestically produced concentrates. “There are no grounds to believe they won’t,” believes Natalia Furik, who heads the Institute’s Biotechnology Department. “Our concentrates rival foreign products in quality, while being cheaper.”
We now need to produce bacterial concentrates which can be deep frozen, since dried ferments only satisfy 30 percent of our domestic dairy industry needs. A cryo-concentrate facility would fully meet all requirements, so a second plant is a priority.