Niska Mlekara, the biggest dairy in Serbia’s south and southeast, no longer exists as of June 1. The formerly state-owned milk processing company, but also the carrier of the milk and livestock production in this part of Serbia, was privatized in 2009, following which it changed ownership several times. The dairy, along with all its employees, the number of which occasionally reached 300, and modern milk processing lines, was first bought by a consortium of three private companies, immediately improving the production to a considerable extent. Relatively quickly, however, two of the three companies stepped out, and the only remaining member of the former consortium sold Niska Mlekara to Belgrade’s Imlek in early 2016.
The facilities, which continued being modernized after the privatization, used to process up to 150,000 liters of milk a day. Their products included high-quality milk, the renowned Nis yoghurt, soured milk, sour cream, various cheeses, butter and other dairy products. However, over the previous two years, the production and the number of workers were gradually being reduced. Late last year, Niska Mlekara was down to only about a hundred employees. This spring, following the negotiations with representatives of Imlek, around thirty drivers took severance payments and left, whereas, this Thursday, another 60 production workers ended their employment. Even after several attempts, Politika has failed to get information as to why and how this has happened from anyone within the company. The gates are locked and nobody is answering the phone calls.
Politika learned from the few workers who were employed until the last day, May 31, that the social program had initially envisaged a payment of EUR 400 for each year of service to employees who leave the company. The latest owner offered EUR 200, which was increased to EUR 280 after negotiations. This Thursday, no one was able to say what would happen to those still employed (unofficially, there are still 12 production workers and around ten employees in the administration).
It is not known what will happen to the production facilities either. Still, the biggest mystery is what will happen to the primary milk production in this part of Serbia and whether several private dairies, with smaller capacities, could buy out and process the entirety of raw milk produced in the Nis area.