The road takes us to Brocanac village near town of Posusje, where our host and founder, Martin Soldo, of Soldo Mont Company, and agronomist Dragan Ripic, welcome us at the greenhouse. It is time for sales of seedlings, especially of immortelle and other aromatic and medicinal plants. In spite of the challenges discussed later, Soldo Mont continues to develop innovations and for expansion. They are exploring other cultures, testing and calculating the means for improving production, and remain eager to further develop the medicinal and aromatic herbs processing facility.
“In 2018, we have produced a ton of essential oil, though we only sold 700 kilos, the rest is still waiting for the customer”, Soldo explains. Today, his company has more than 200 hundred cooperants, and in times of crisis, he kept these producers’ loyalty without promising much. “At the outset, we clearly agreed that the moment the oil was sold, the agreed fee for the cooperants who sold us the product will be paid,” Soldo added.
“My brother and I worked together to develop this company and even bought this greenhouse in Germany. We dismantled it in two days, but it took us a month to reassemble it here,” as Martin recounts the beginnings of Soldo Mont through laughter and interesting anecdotes to better mark connections before disassembly.
Today, this company is successfully working with seedlings of immortelle, as well as other medicinal plants. Dragan says it is necessary to experiment with different species, in order to explore what other varieties suit Herzegovina’s climate. After a period when the immortelle has practically transitioned from ‘wild’ to plantations, ‘fever’ is slowly passing away, so those producers who had sustainable and realistic plans and invested in a higher level of processing remained in business. For processors, every form of support is significant.
“With the support of Sweden/USAID FARMA II, we were able to equip our distillery.” ”That support enabled us to invest in capacity development, for expanding production, opening up markets, and finally, new and sustained work, whether through seasonal jobs or through ongoing collaboration,” Martin adds.
Dragan confirms that working with medicinal and aromatic herbs is often linked only to immortelle and with diversified production would be a chance for greater competitiveness in the world market. The exports of medicinal plants increased by $1.2 million in 2018 and amounted over $4 million. However, the structure of exports is still unfavorable, since Bosnia and Herzegovina exports the essential oils mainly in bulk. Both producers and processors believe that more stable times are coming, and with diversification of production, adoption of the modern practices and improving production, as well as local processing of the essential oils into higher-value products (such as natural cosmetics), better days are coming for this sector.