Agricultural co-operatives from Valencia in Spain explored the challenges facing their sector during a one-day conference in the city of Dénia.
The event drew more than 40 representatives from various co-ops, who discussed issues such as modernising agricultural structures and the potential impact of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).
The conference was organised by agri-food co-ops of the Valencia Community (Cooperatives Agro-alimentàries de la Comunitat Valenciana), a federation of 353 co-ops with over 202,000 members. In 2014 they had a combined turnover of €1.9bn.
Panelist José María García Álvarez-Coque, who teaches at the economy and social science department at the Polytechnic University of Valencia, looked at the key developments in agricultural structures. He said small-scale farming was making the agricultural sector less competitive and suggested small-scale ventures joined efforts and created new structures to achieve scale.
The second part of the conference was dedicated to the potential implications of TTIP, a trade deal currently negotiated by the USA and the EU.
Gabriel Trenzado, director of EU and international affairs at Cooperativas Agro-alimentarias de España, the Spanish federation of Agricultural Co-operatives, highlighted the vast scale of TTIP, with the EU and the USA accounting for 50% of the global GDP – worth €3bn a day in transactions.
Mr Trenzado said the federation was waiting to see the final terms of TTIP before it decided whether to support or oppose the deal. He added that the agreement could bring new opportunities for co-ops in the agricultural sector, if they could access the US market under favourable terms.
Participants also talked about developing a plan to promote co-operatives across the province.
Rogelio Llanes, the regional government’s director general of agriculture, livestock and fishery, said: “Looking at the challenges faced by the sector, we can see how the co-operative movement consolidates it.”
He added that the agri-food sector was in a good state in terms of macro-economic performance but this was not reflected in what farmers are paid for their products.
Mr Llanes called on co-ops to increase their market share and take over any production abandoned by members, to stop the private sector moving in.