The number of Romanian farmers from whom milk is collected is decreasing discreetly. However, the number of collection centers from which processors buy milk remains constant, with records of insignificant numerical growth. One of the profitable, but not sufficiently approached, investments in this food sector is the collection of milk from the farmer, through his own collection center. Lately, these raw milk collection points are especially in demand by farmers with small family farms, who periodically (usually daily) deliver small amounts of milk. Another category of raw material milk suppliers is represented by the large farms that deliver to the collection centers, only when the direct purchase, made by the processor, is not possible.
Collection in barrels, long after sunset
In general, due to the fact that raw milk is a perishable product, which cannot be stored in supervised cooling conditions for more than 48 hours, farmers try to avoid the decline of the relationship with processors and to remain with the goods uncollected. It is one of the reasons why the milk producer is looking to collaborate with a collection center, which will offer him the guarantee that – through the services provided – he will not break the relationship with the processor who, in turn, is his partner. This is only the case, not at all singular, when the milk processor is the only one that directly collects the raw material in the area or owns all the collection centers.
Milk collection centers may be the property of a natural or legal person whose object of activity is not milk processing or the property of a processor. In our country, 12% of the milk collection points are independent centers (the owner does not process the collected milk), they have the right to sell the milk to any other processor on the profile market or to work simultaneously with several processors. According to the provisions of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, an institution that establishes the conditions for the approval of milk buyers, buyers must have a computerized system for proper storage and transmission of data. Along with this it is mandatory to use a specific device, to determine the quantity of milk and the fat content or – in its absence – to conclude a contract with one of the laboratories authorized for this purpose. The own or contracted laboratory must participate in the inter-laboratory tests.
The quality of milk buyer is acquired together with the registration in the Buyers Register, the monitoring document of the milk quota system, administered by APIA. Along with this request, the economic operators will specify: the quantity of milk expected to be bought in the respective quota year (thousand kg); the facilities they have for determining the fat content of the milk collected; apparatus and equipment for measuring the quantity of milk received; proof of having its own laboratory for determining the fat content or of having a service contract with a laboratory authorized by ANSVSA; standardized methods used for sampling and analysis of fat content.
It is mandatory, before starting the activity, to prove the existence of specific means of transport, cold storage facilities and devices necessary for the physical purification of milk. In addition, the buyer will undertake to comply with the legislation in force in the field of milk quota and that the milk purchased from producers will be sold only to the processing units approved and registered in the Buyer’s Register. Properly equipped milk collection centers will be located in areas with lower production of processors, in order to increase the volume of milk attracted to them, as well as to educate small and medium farmers, on the requirements and quality conditions imposed when taking over the raw material.
Strictly, but not exclusively, economically
It is known that efforts have been made in terms of milk quality and progress has been made, but producers have requested additional transition periods to improve the quality of raw milk (implicitly the collection system). The last transition period will have benefits on all factors involved in the dairy sector: breeders, farmers, collection or processing centers. The entry on the market of raw milk production and processing is conditioned, on the one hand, by the norms regarding the quality, and on the other hand by legislative economic barriers, open only to those who accept and respect them. Access to this market implies (in addition to material investments) responsibility, because the establishment of a milk collection center must also ensure the economic conditions required by the European Union.
The purchase of milk is made on the basis of a contract or a verbal agreement. The processor takes on milk stored in time for 24-48 hours in cooling tanks, in controlled hygienic conditions. In most cases, the collection center mediates the payment between the producer and the processor, when the latter does not purchase from the farmer. Payment for milk is made monthly or under other conditions provided in the contract. The rather high price charged by laboratories for milk conformity tests is an almost insurmountable barrier for farmers holding family farms, which is why these tests are mediated by the collection center, farmers being forced to later accept very low prices for non-compliant milk. delivered. Economic limits are also established by the regulations that define the milk quota system; thus, milk cannot be collected from a farmer who does not have a share of milk deliveries. Also, the manufacturer can choose / change his buyer, provided that he is approved by the competent authority.
Milk can be collected from any geographical region, as long as the processor who buys it later is willing to bear the costs of transporting the milk to the factory. For a large farm, which has a cooling and milk storage facility for one to two days and which can provide the processor with a quantity of over 10,000 liters, it is enough to justify the movement of a large tank. The relevant geographic market can be, in this case, an area that includes several neighboring counties. For the average farmer, who produces a few hundred liters per day, the relevant geographic market is represented by the county in which he is located.
The collection of milk from small producers is done through collection centers located in rural areas, each center can collect for a processor that owns the facilities of the center or can collect independently, when the collection center is the property of the collector. For small producers, due to high transport costs, low bargaining power, inability to choose the time and place of sale, the relevant geographic market is represented by a locality or a county. In principle, the national competition authorities agree with the adoption of voluntary codes of conduct / good practices, by operators in the dairy sector, codes that should provide certain criteria for contracts in the sector (basic elements, duration, penalties), without this process leading to standardization