The EBRD is lending Mladost-Sid, a Serbian edible oil processing company, owned by Victoria Group, a major agribusiness company, €10mn to buy more sunflower seeds to increase production of its main products, including crude sunflower oil, and sunflower meal, a by-product of sunflower seed crushing used as animal feed.

The loan is being provided under the EBRD Agriculture Commodity Financing Programme (ACFP), created to lend local agribusiness companies finance by using agriculture commodities as collateral.

Gilles Mettetal, director of agribusiness at the EBRD, says this is an important project that will help the company to grow in the competitive edible oil sector in Serbia. At the same time, the bank is demonstrating innovative ways to give local businesses access to finance, he adds.

Established in 1980, Mladost was acquired – in 2001 – by Sojaprotein, the largest producer of soy beans in southeast Europe, which is in turn majority-owned by Victoria Group. Since the acquisition, Mladost has increased its oilseed crushing capacity from 100,000 tonnes to 200,000 tonnes.

Sojaprotein has the largest Soya collection network in Serbia and works with over 400 cooperatives which have relationships with over 40,000 farmers.

Zoran Mitrovic, president of Victoria Group’s managing board, says: “We are pleased to partner with the EBRD on this project, which will allow the company to further increase purchases of sunflower seeds from farmers, and expand its cooperation with oilseed growers in Serbia to create markets for their products locally and globally.”