BULGARIA

Vihren Dimitrov, Golyamo Vranovo: We are developing a new pork hybrid called Black Angel

Pork

Golyamo Vranovo, the first pig farm in Bulgaria is aiming in deleping a new pork hybrid called Black Angel which will be, according to Mr. Vihren Dimitrov director of the company, the best quality pork meat in Eastern Europe, better than Iberico or Mangalica.

Posted on Jun 12 ,00:15

Vihren Dimitrov, Golyamo Vranovo: We are developing a new pork hybrid called Black Angel

EMN: After 50 years of existence, where does Golyamo Vranovo position itself in the European food industry?

We have started in 1972 being the first pig farm in Bulgaria and one of the first in Eastern Europe to introduce the “Camborough system of industrial pig breeding”. Since day one, our aim was to produce the best pigs in our country.

My mother – Dr. Milenka Dimitrova was the first veterinary doctor in the farm in 1972. Now she is the CEO of the company that was privatized from the government in 1998 by a team of shareholders, consisting of employees and managers working in the state farm.

Today out credo is the same: Best Meat – Best Pork – Best Products

EMN: Your company has an integrated system of production. Does it cover the supply for your facilities or are you sourcing commodities from other partners as well? Can you give us some details regarding the production capacities of crop units, farms, slaughterhouses and processing units?

Our company comprises a number of business activities. We cultivate about 4200 hectares of land, growing wheat, barley, maize and sunflower.

Our pig farm produces about 15 000 – 16 000 tons of feed for the needs of our pig farm – full integrated – 2000 sows. Each sow weans about 12,5 – 13 piglets on the 28th day. We produce about 50 000 slaughter pigs per year, average weight 110 – 115kg. Our slaughterhouse processes around 100 – 120 pigs per day. We further process the carcasses into primal and final cuts. We produce different kinds of products in our meat processing plant. Last year our annual turnover was about 12 million euros.

EMN: How did you select the best pig breed for your farms?

We bought our genetics from Genesus and completely repopulated our farm 3 and half years ago. Our mothers’ line is the most popular hybrid F1 and our fathers’ line is either Duroc or Pietrain.

EMN: What are the current output for Golyamo Vranovo`s production and what type of products do you deliver in the market? What are your best selling products right now?

Our sales in 2023 were a little over 12 million euros. We sold live pigs and processed and sold over 18 000 pigs through our slaughterhouse and meat processing plant.

Our best selling products now are final cuts and mincemeat products.

EMN: What are the novelties that helped your company to regain its position in the market and where do you stand from the perspective of the sales channels? Have you implemented modern technologies to increase your sales?

More than 6 months ago, we started developing our own hybrid called “Black Angel” based on East Balkan Swine (EBS) and commercial breeds of hybrids – F1 and Duroc.

EBS exists since 2000 years ago. It is renowned for its best quality pork meat in this part of the world. Our goal is to produce pork and pork products better than Iberico and Mangalitza. We participated at the biggest BBQ festival in Europe, GRILLFEST (10 – 12.05.2024) with BBQ products based on our “Black Angel” hybrid.

Two and half years ago, we started direct sales to Bulgarian municipalities in remote areas, selling carcasses and primal cuts to individuals. We simply wrote e-mails and posted letters to local municipalities. They wrote a list with potential individual customers and we did the deliveries to every village in Bulgaria. We were sceptical in the beginning (so were the Bulgarian municipalities). Out of the 264 existing municipalities in Bulgaria, more than 20% became our partners and we supplied and continue to supply more than 150 little towns and villages in our country.

EMN: Please tell us more about your retail network and if you collaborate with the big chain stores.

We do not collaborate with the big chain stores. We do our sales either through our company shops (12 at the moment), to small, independent local shops and chains that pay straight away and try to encourage franchise partnerships with us. We also have mobile shops and do sales on local markets.

EMN: To what extent the ASF situation in Europe has disrupted trade with partners from other countries? What are your main export destinations?

ASF is much more than a pig disease. It is an economic and political disease. In the summer of 2019, our farm was struck by the virus and produced 2 positive and 1600 negative tests. We had to eradicate 38 000 pigs. Neither the authorities in Brussels, nor those in Sofia showed any brains. The EC directive for ASF is useless. On the whole, we farmers and food producers suffer from the bureaucrats in Brussels. The EC policies for farmers and all other players in the food chain are completely wrong. We badly need political representation in the EU institutions to change in the long term the philosophy of producing and distributing the foods in the member countries. At the moment, our main export destination is our closest neighbour – Romania. We sell live pigs and we are looking to start selling pork and products based on our new hybrid “Black Angel”.

EMN: What are the investments that you completed in the last couple of years and what do you plan for 2024?

In 2022 and 2023 we have invested in several directions – in our pig feeding plant, we have opened and renewed several company shops, depot for wholesale and processing plant in Plovdiv (second largest city in Bulgaria), purchased mobile shops and refrigerator vehicles, acquired new genetics from AXIOM.

In 2024, we plan to renovate and build new stables in our pig farm for 3000 piglets and fatteners. We will also continue with the project “Black Angel” in Bulgaria and abroad.

EMN: Your partnership with TrailBlazer barbecues seems an interesting project. Tell us more about it.

In March 2018, our company sponsored the participation of the Bulgarian butcher team in World Butchers Challenge in Belfast. I was lucky to meet Mr. Lester Manley – the owner of Trailblazer BBQ. We purchased several BBQs – different sizes and since then we have participated in many grill and BBQ events in Bulgaria – all over the country.

EMN: Companies all over Europe are complaining about the lack of skilled personnel. To what extent is this becoming a problem for the Bulgarian food industry and for your company in particular?

Since the collapse of socialism in Bulgaria in 1989, the population of Bulgaria has dropped from almost 9 million people to just a little more than 6 million people.

We are the oldest country in Europe with more than 1300 years of history (since 681) but in the last 35 years, we are experiencing our biggest demographic crisis. Sometimes we cannot find any personnel, not talking about skilled labour force. To my mind, this is the biggest problem not only in the food industry in Bulgaria but in all industries in our country. If we do not adopt and follow a long-term demographic strategy in Bulgaria, we are doomed.

EMN: Tell us more information about the evolution of the Bulgarian meat production and consumption in 2023.

The only two sectors that are doing relatively well in the meat industry in our country are pork and chicken. They provide up to 30 – 40% of the consumption in Bulgaria. Beef and lamb provide only 10 – 15% of the local consumption. Just 35 years ago, Bulgaria was satisfying its domestic market and exporting to many other countries – ex. Soviet Union, the Middle East, and others.

I believe that Bulgaria and Romania have the potential not only to satisfy its domestic market but also to feed the whole EU.

EMN: What consumption trends have you noticed so far and how are they shaping the meat industry?

Consumers in smaller towns and villages prefer locally bread and processed meat products. Direct sales to end customers, either shops or individuals are improving. The importance of local country markets and fairs is growing.

EMN: How important are trends such as online shopping, convenience, ready to cook, ready to eat for the Bulgarian meat industry and what do you foresee for these channels?

Online shopping for fresh meat and products in Bulgaria, to my mind is not practical. I am in favour of direct sales from producers to end customers either online or offline but bypassing internet platforms.

The distribution channels in the food chain in Europe have to be changed. There should be public control on the pricing of the meat production – no subsidies but fair trade between country members.

EMN: Some analyst are predicting a consumer`s switch from pork to poultry in the following years. How do you respond to these challenges?

The biggest threat to pork consumption are seafood products, not poultry. In Bulgaria and Romania, we have the chance to produce tastier and healthier pork than the rest of Europe – Belgium, Netherlands, Denmark, Germany etc. We have enough land and better genetics.

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