Agricultural cooperatives look to the future with optimism

Catalan agricultural cooperatives face the future in the medium and long term convinced that they are a “strategic ally for the country’s social economy“. This was stated by the President of the Federation of Agricultural Cooperatives of Catalonia (FCAC), Ramon Sarroca, at the Santander Agricultural Forum, organized this week by Diari de Girona and Prensa Ibérica with the sponsorship of Banco Santander.

Sarroca admitted that agricultural cooperatives are no strangers to the crises of the primary sector and that they face very important challenges. Among these, he commented on the need to bet on sustainability and make an environmental transition in the face of the climate crisis, the need to incorporate young people into the sector, and also women in the structures of cooperatives.

According to the president of the FCAC, the commitment of cooperatives is to produce food of high quality, seeking economic and social profitability. In this regard, he stressed that the average turnover of cooperatives is increasing and that many temporary jobs have become indefinite. According to Sarroca, one of the characteristics and richness of Catalan cooperatives is their diversity and ambition to reach both the local markets and the main international squares.

The president of the FCAC also called for the consumption of local and seasonal products as elements of sustainability: “We can not fight climate change, or reduce drugs in livestock, or pesticides in agriculture if then the consumer prefers to buy apples from Chile or a product from South Africa.

Catalonia does not currently have any agricultural cooperative that stands out in the Spanish ranking of the sector. A problem of dimension in the face of which Sarroca is committed to long-term cooperation projects. “We are carrying out very powerful cooperation projects between cooperatives that I am convinced will bear good fruit. And if they want to merge in the long run, I would do it as a first-class cooperative. One of the people who followed the event online commented that the confinement and the pandemic had accelerated direct sales projects from the producer to the consumer. Asked if this process would end up putting an end to intermediaries, the FCAC president said no. “The market has rules of the game, supply and demand, which are still in force. The sale of agri-food products online has come to stay and will go further, but this will not end with intermediaries, because producers need them to reach large sales platforms, such as supermarket chains here and there. foreigner, ”he added.

He also referred to questions from the public about the increase in photovoltaic projects on agricultural land. In his opinion, “it cannot be that we have spent many millions of euros on irrigation so that these lands end up being used for energy production due to the pressure exerted by large companies. They laugh at us saying that this will be a complement to our retirement.

Finance the agricultural sector

For her part, María José Maciá, territorial director of Banco Santander in Catalonia, emphasized that the entity’s business model is focused on the needs of the productive sector “because they are the ones that guarantee the maintenance of employment and therefore the protection of families. We want to be part of the solution and contribute to the economic recovery. During the opening of the day, Maciá recalled that “since the beginning of the year, Santander has financed the agricultural sector of Catalonia with a total of 738 million euros, which is 40% more than in the same period of the previous year ».

At the closing of the Agricultural Forum, Lorena Ruiz Ponce, Director of Agri-Food Business of Banco Santander in Spain, stressed that “agri-food is one of the engines of the Spanish economy” and that Banco Santander wants to “provide service and support to all the actors of the sector ». In this sense, he stressed that this year they had given financing to companies in the sector in Spain worth more than 7 billion euros. “Innovation and access to capital are key elements for the development of the agri-food sector, and at Banco Santander we believe that we must facilitate access to information through new technologies and access to finance through a wide range of products tailored to customer needs, ”he said.

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