First meat producing cooperative to take up work in November
Former journalist and media executive Mart Luik has joined a meat producing cooperative that aims to bring a different business model to Estonia’s market. The founding of Ühistu Eesti Lihatööstus is part of an increasing trend towards smaller production, and supplying customers directly.
Since Estonia regained its independence, the development of its agricultural policy has aimed mainly at supporting large farmers and producers at the expense of smaller ones in order to produce more even and effective farming. But there have been signs of a new trend recently towards smaller producers, and also towards supplying consumers directly.
Pork producing cooperative Ühistu Eesti Lihatööstus is the first cooperative enterprise in meat production. Mart Luik, a member of its management, sees much potential.
“It’s basically a company that is just starting out. There are production buildings and decent equipment, but everything else, brand creation, sales agreements, putting together a team, that’s still ahead,” Luik told BNS on Tuesday. He added that there was a lot to do, but that this was what made it interesting.
According to Luik, the cooperative is a unique business endeavor form in Estonia. “No such thing has been seen in the meat production sector after Estonia regained its independence,” he said.
Although Estonia wasn’t going through the easiest of periods in the pork sector at the moment, the harsh situation provided additional motivation, Luik said. “Some things are already in progress. Domestic consumers are not very conscious of the African swine fever (ASF), and it does not influence production that much, but it is a major headache for pig farmers,” he said.
There are also the Russian sanctions, which the companies can do nothing about. “We are hoping that the world will open up for European meat producers in other directions. There are rumors that the Finns are conquering China and Japan,” he added.
Luik sees no problem with moving from the media sector to the agricultural sector. “When I was invited to join the supervisory board of Port of Tallinn a year ago, several of my friends and colleagues were interested in how it was that I ended up in such a field. We were just discussing that there is a notion that when you're a media manager, you can only do media,” he said.
According to Luik, the cooperative is working hard to introduce their own brand products by the end of the year. “I can't yet promise any specific schedule,” he said, adding that the cooperative was yet to start production.
The company has hired eight people to work at the factory so far, and is expected to hire another 10-15 people in November.
Most of Luik’s career has been in journalism. He has been the director of private TV channel TV3, has held several positions at Postimees (including a short stint as the paper’s editor-in-chief), and has been on the supervisory board of Port of Tallinn since 2015. He has also been a member of ERR’s supervisory board.