EBRD and EU the company raise processing and packaging standards
“I decided to give the right job to the right people,” answers Muneer Hidmi when asked why his small cheese and dairy factory in the West Bank is bustling with women.
“Women are the best at processing dairy. I learned through my experience of running this dairy factory that no one can take this much care, attention to detail and perfecting the job like women!”
Mr Hidmi employs 12 women and four men at his family business, Hidmi Company for Food Industries, in Bir Naballa. The factory has been running for over 50 years, producing traditional, high quality dairy products made from 100 per cent organic fresh goat and sheep milk.
The factory cooperates with a network of local hard-working Palestinian farmers and sheepherders, since promoting small local producers is one of their priorities.
Hidmi is one of the first clients of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) programme to provide business advice through local consultants, funded by the European Union.
The company applied for the programme in 2018 to receive help in acquiring a Food Safety Standard Certification (FSSC) 22000 which would allow it to comply with the latest technology standards for dairy processing and product packaging.
Hidmi is the first firm in the West Bank and Gaza to obtain this kind of certification for the dairy processing industry and thus start aiming to export abroad.
Hidmi specialises in Halloumi cheese, pasteurised white cheese “Nablus cheese”, Feta and other dairy products. It monitors all their suppliers to ensure that they follow high standards of grazing and hygiene without using harmful steroids, antibiotics, pesticides and other chemicals.
Sana’a Qandeel, who has been working at Hidmi for two years, praises the company’s culture. “It’s hard to find a local company with such professionalism with its employees and this is what attracted me to work here,” she said.
“We women working at the factory are very cautious when handling dairy which is a sensitive product. Men don’t have the same patience!”
With this certification, Hidmi will have a better chance of participating in international food exhibitions as well as be able to export internationally ,especially to the Gulf and the United States. They currently only distribute their products locally.
“I’m hoping to keep our heritage and food culture alive for decades to come and to pass on my love for our local produce to my children,” said Mr Hidmi.
In the future, Hidmi hopes to seek the EBRD support again to develop a better marketing strategy and technical help in packaging and value chain development.
The EBRD started operating in the West Bank and Gaza in 2017 as part of its work in the southern and eastern Mediterranean (SEMED) region.
The region includes Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco and Tunisia, and the EBRD’s total investment there has now reached €10.1 billion in seven years, with a focus on renewable energy, infrastructure and SMEs.