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Cheese is one of the oldest food products. The production of cheese has begun 8 000 years ago in fertile valley between the Tiger and Eufrat rivers, in today's Iraque, and represents the classic way of food preservation for long periods of time. The production of cheese has been modified and andvanced until today, from the earliest primitive milk processing to the application of the latest industrial technology, which resulted in the great number of groceries of this kind. Autochthonous cheese represents a special group of groceries, which is a characteristic of a certain nation, country and region. Names of autochthonous cheese are strictly connected with their origin, in other words with the place where they are produced. Traditional production of autochthonous cheese has not only been preserved, but has also achieved a significant regeneration through the growing demand for organic food and high quality food with indications of geographical origin, whose competitiveness and prices, in comparison to conventional products, has been significantly increasing. Traditional ways of autochthonous cheese production in relatively isolated mountain environment has been preserved in Serbia.
The decision of the European Commission to put Serbia on the list of countries from which it is possible to import milk into the EU countries will have long-term positive effects on domestic agriculture, because that decision will additionally stimulate agricultural production, since new markets for the placement of domestic products have been opening.
The production of milk in Serbia is still holding an unenviable position. In the recent years, it has not only been stagnated, it has been reduced as well, therefore it is necessary to take appropriate measures in order to urge its growth and development. The production of cow milk in Serbia per dairy head of cattle is unsatisfactory and extremely low; on the average it is 2.585 l, which is about 18% less in comparison to the average value of the world milk production, and even 50% less in comparison to the average value of the European milk production (StankoviÄ‡, 2010). In 2008., 1,534 billion litres of cow milk was produced, in 2006. -1,587 billion litres, and in 2005.-1,602 billion of litres (table). The share of cow milk in the total production of milk in Serbia is 99%. Total quantity of sheep and goat milk and 92% of cow milk has been produced on individual farms (BoÅ¾iÄ‡ and collaborators, 2008). Serbia is on the bottom of the European scale according to the consumption of milk and dairy products. If it approached the European average consumption, it would face deficit of these products. In 2007. average consumption of milk was 30,6 litres per capita, the average consumption of white cheese was 10,7 kg per capita, the average consumption of kajmak (a dairy dish) was 1,1 kg per capita and the average consumption of butter was 0,1 kg per capita (2 l). The consumption of dairy products in the European countries is signifficantly higher; one inhabitant of a European country consumes about 100 litres of milk during the year, 8,9 kg of hard cheese and semi hard cheese and 4,7 kg of butter. The consumption of cheese in the EU showed 9.1 % increase in 2007.(KapidÅ¾iÄ‡, 2007) It has been estimated that the consumption of dairy products in the world will show 2.5 % increase until 2010., the consumption of butter and cheese will show 2-2.7 % increase, and the consumption of hard dairy products will show 0,9 % increase (KapidÅ¾iÄ‡, 2007)
Growth in the production of cheese was established in Serbia (table 2). During 2004. it was produced 15173 t of cheese in total, and during 2008. it was produced 21233 t of cheese, which shows production increase of 39,94 %. According to the statistical data, a small increase in production of cheese was recorded in Vojvodina, during the period from 2004. to 2008. (28,97 %) in comparison to Central Serbia (54,91 %).
Autochthonous cheese is a product that has been made for the first time in specific area as a result of the development of the traditional production that lasted for a long time. Great number of various sorts of cheese, world known, originate from autochthonous production, for example Ementaler from Switzerland, Gauda cheese from Holland etc. Preservation of autochthonous cheese is very important because that way ethnographic wealth of a country remains preserved, and at the same time recognizable gastronomic and tourism offer and placement on foreign markets is enabled. Production of autochthonous cheese in rural regions becomes more and more important way of gaining income. In order to place autochthonous cheese on foreign market, it is necessary to apply traditional, but standardized technology with the assurance of standardized quality and safety of these products, so that they would be adapted to market demands of the EU (OstojiÄ‡ and TopisiroviÄ‡, 2006).
Consumers all over the world, taking care of their health, become more and more demanding looking for natural products of famous origin. Today, there is a growing number of consumers who want to buy and use in nutrition autochthonous products that were produced in small quantities, according to ecological standards. According to the FAO data, annual sale of ecological food in the world has been growing more than 20%. Market research reports show that this kind of food is 15% more expensive than common food. The greatest part of ecological food has been placed in the EU countries (KapidÅ¾iÄ‡).
Autochthonous cheese is mostly produced from unprocessed milk. Phase of ripening does not last long, and it has a distinct taste and a specific texture. Authenticity of autochthonous cheese according to which it differs from the same types of cheese made in other regions depends on, among other things, autochthonous microorganisms, which are heterogenous types of lactic acid bacteria. Domination of a certain type depends on the type and origin of milk. Addition of commercial culture could result in the loss of cheese authenticity (Estaper and collaborators, 1999). It has been paid more and more attention to biodiversity protection today, but it has not still been worked enough on preservation of microorganisms, especially on preservation of lactic acid bacteria that originate from traditionally produced fermented milk products. Preservation and use of autochthonous lactic acid bacteria will enable production of traditional cheese and a base for application of appropriate standards, which will guarantee first-class quality and safety of these products with unique organoleptic features (BulajiÄ‡ and MijaÄeviÄ‡, 2007).
Thanks to geographic, climate and vagetation diversity in Serbian regions, production of autochthonous cheese was developed during the past. Preservation of autochthonous technologies for the production of cheese in mountain areas like: Zlatar, Zlatibor, Golija, Kopaonik, Stara planina, Šar planina etc. is extremely important. These technologies are a base for an accession to organized production of autochthonous cheese in accordance with international standards. Quality cheese in brine like: Zlatar cheese, Sjenica cheese, Javor cheese, Golija cheese etc. has been produced in mounain area Stari Vlah. These types of cheese are famous for an established quality and the diffusion of production. These types of cheese were originally produced from sheep milk, but cow and mixed cow and sheep milk were more and more used. Lately, the use of goat milk in the production of autochthonous cheese has been reviving again (OstojiÄ‡ and TopisiroviÄ‡, 2006)
Autochthonous cheese will always have higher price than most of the industrial types of cheese, because of small production lines, as well as because the additional value considering its unique organoleptic features. A story about the culture of people that produce cheese represents a particular value of autochthonous cheese.
Cheese quality marks
Almost all members of the EU strive to protect the production of their autochthonous cheese. The EU adopted the Regulations No. 2081/92 and No. 1804/99 in 1993. according to which cheese can be protected by quality marks: of origin (Protected Denomination of Origin (PDO), geographical indication (Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) and traditional speciality guaranteed (Traditional Speciality Guaranteed (TSG). The names of products are being protected by these quality marks, but only those that satisfy precisely defined criteria, while at the same time the Regulations are being in accordance with the Intellectual Property Law and with The Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights from 1994.
Protection and support to the production of autochthonous cheese came as a result of new agricultural policy of the EU, by which expansion of trade exchange and reduction of the industrial dairy products supplies has been achieved, as well as preservation of products from disappearing and falsification and help for the consumer to recognize uniqueness of products. Agrarian policy of the EU stimulates certain sort of extensive agricultural production, which contributes to the environmental protection, as well as to the protection of biodiversity and rural areas (SamardÅ¾ija and collaborators, 2006).
Autochthonous cheese must be produced in certain region. Climate, position and land type, natural vegetation, species of cultivated plants, the ways of raising and animal breed all together enable cheese originality and uniqueness.
Tradition and experience that have been handed down from generation to generation have been of special, crucial importance for the origin of autochthonous cheese. Protected Denomination of Origin (PDO) represents connection between historical and geographical dimension. Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) enables protection of cheese on condition that the technology of production, procession or preparation of products has been performing in the place of origin (SaviÄ‡ and ÄuriÄ‡, 2008;7). Physical, chemical and organoleptical features of the products represent the result of mutual influence of the region, land, vegetation and man. The cheese protected by Traditional Speciality Guaranteed (TSG) has specific features that resulted from the way of production or from the traditional structure, unbound to the certain area.
International Agricultural Trade Liberalization caused change in agrarian policy of certain countries that are members of the EU. Most of the countries recognized the importance of autochthonous cheese protection (table 3). Those countries protected their own producers through national legislation, which enables better trade exchange among the countries that are members of the EU, but also stimulates rural development. Protection of autochthonous cheese also contributes protection of the consumers, which are being given precise information about the product together with a quality and authenticity guarantee. Besides, mark given by the European Commission means that the name of the product has been protected, so that it has been protected from imitation in all countries that are members of the EU (Lucatelli, 2000).
Protection of its own cheese represents the protection of cultural identity of a certain area, therefore it also represents the protection of cultural identity of a country, as well. At the same time, it has been reflected in the environmental protection, as well as in the stimulation of local population to produce high quality cheese, which is different from industrial cheese. In order to get PDO mark, which is acknowledged in the EU, quality of autochthonous cheese must originate from the uniqueness of geographical area and production, which has been performing under strictly defined conditions, including human and natural factors.
The EU adopted the Directive of the EU 510/06, according to which producers from countries which are not members of EU can protect geographical origin of their products. It means that, the products that fulfill the requirements stated by the Directive, will have the possibility to use the same marks that products of the countries that are members of the EU use. That is legal bases according to which the producers from the countries that are not members of the EU can place their products on the EU market.
System certification has to ensure an adequate control, which should be identical with the control within the EU. The bodies that perform control must guarantee objectivity and impartiality and must have qualified staff at disposal. Holding a seminar of this kind will contribute establishment of the efficient systems for control and certification of the products with geographical origin.
Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Waterpower Engineering of the Republic of Serbia strives with its measures to contribute that domestic products with geographical origin find their place on the EU market also, with the same marks which protect geographical origin that the products which originates from the countries that belong to the EU have, in order to increase their export (22).
Production of autochthonous cheese is very simple under the conditions of rural household, but proceedings for the acknowledgment of Geographical Indication mark of these products is very demanding. In order to produce autchthonous cheese in accordance with Food Safety standards, the appropriate hygienic conditions during the production, as well as hygienic conditions of storage and distribution must be enabled, and there also must be a permanent control and education of producers. Sale and purchase must be in connection, they must not vary, because that provokes suspicion and insecurity among producers. Among series of demands, priority is given to good hygiene practice of the production, so that permanent quality and safety of products could be guaranteed. For that purpose, collaboration among scientific and expert staff and the producers of autochthonous products is necessary in order to enable conditions for the acknowledgment of Geographic Indication.
One of the examples that have already been realized is standardization of the technology for the production of Zlatar cheese for the purpose of registration and nomination for the protection of Geographical Indication.This was performed in collaboration with research fellows of the Faculty of Agriculture in Belgrade, in the form of science research project, financed by the Ministry of Science of the Republic of Serbia and by the producers from rural environment of Zlatar (OstojiÄ‡ and TopisiroviÄ‡, 2006).
The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Waterpower Engineering of the Republic of Serbia announced an open competition for distribution of stimulation resources for the improvement of production of agriculture and food products with Geographic Indication. The right to submit a demand to use stimulation resources had, among all others, Citizens Associations and collective farms. Priority in awarding resources was also given to the producers who financed a part of activities from their own resources, or to those who applied for the purpose of realization of activities related to agriculture and food products with Geographic Indication of autochthonous breed.
For the purpose of increasing the export and decreasing domestic stock of milk, The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Waterpower Engineering will separate significant financial resources for subvention of diary sector through passing the following regulations, among all others (22):
During the last decade, a need to protect production and to acknowledge origin and geographical indication of autochthonous cheese has been imposed again, in order to preserve uniqueness and distinction of products and to prevent imitation and therefore protect consumers.
Traditional technology of production of autochthonous cheese is very simple in modest conditions of hilly and mountainous area of the Republic of Serbia. Geographic position, climate, height above sea level and abundant mountain pastures are suitable for sheep raising and cattle raising, and therefore for the production of milk and traditional products. In order to find a place on the EU market for autochthonous cheese made in the Republic of Serbia, it is necessary to bring the technology of production to the level which ensures high, standard quality and safety of products, so that all necessary conditions could be fulfilled for the purpose of getting Denomination of Origin and Geographical Indication marks. This is possible to accomplish through collaboration among individual producers and their associations and scientific institutions and authorized ministries.
Financial support to the presentation of agricultural products with Denomination of Origin (PDO) and Geographical Indication (PGI) marks is given, under certain conditions, by the EU, as well as by the Republic of Serbia.
Before admission to the EU, the Republic of Serbia should start with more massive production of autochthonous cheese with Denomination of Origin and Geographical Indication marks, especially because of the fact that for the export of these types of cheese quota does not exist. After the admission to the EU, the Republic of Serbia will be obligated to correct milk production to be in accordance with regulations and quantities, that are current in the EU.