DEHDADI DISTRICT, Balkh Province – The automated machine turns every few seconds and fills the empty cartons with yoghurt in equally proportioned short bursts. The cartons turn around and are machine labelled with the logo of the Balkh Dairy Union (BDU). Two young men, wearing uniforms of the factory, organize the labeled cartons in a package and cart them outside.
Every day, 5,000 liters of fresh milk come to BDU’s local pasteurization factory. The factory pasteurizes milk and produces yoghurt, cream, butter, buttermilk, and other dairy products, supplying markets in Mazar-e-Sharif city in Balkh Province. “Since we supply a whole range of pasteurized dairy products in Mazar-e-Sharif markets, we hope to compete with imported supplies and meet the needs of consumers,” says Qiyamuddin Qiam, head of Balkh Livestock Development Union (BLDU), which BDU is a part of.
The dairy factory, located in Shirabad village in Dehdadi district, southwest of Mazar-e-Sharif city, was established through the joint efforts of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock (MAIL), and farmers of Balkh Province in June 2007.
In its early days, the factory operated on a very small scale and was able to pasteurize only 2,000 liters of fresh milk daily. Production levels increased to 4,000 liters per day in 2013. “Although our production had increased, we faced many challenges,” says Qiyamuddin Qiam. “Our packaging was not systematic, the workers were not trained enough, and we had not figured out a market for our products.”