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"The" solution "to the current global unsustainability (ecological, social and ecological) seems very complex to me, and I am only able to glimpse in a somewhat simplistic way some steps that we are trying to take in the short term. It is necessary to go much further, and at the same time focus our efforts on building sustainability alternatives in the here and now "
Interview with Daniel López García
At what point does this type of cooperative arrive?
At a time of strong rebound in state consumption of organic food, which in 2015 rose 25%. Domestic consumption continues to be very low in relation to the territorial context (1.1% of total household expenditure on food, compared to 7 and 9% in certain European countries) and the importance of production (almost 6% of the Agricultural Area Useful, being the Spanish State the 1st country by certified organic area in the EU, and 6th in the World), but it is growing at a very good pace and it seems that it is finally taking off.
This, without a doubt, is being perceived by the large distribution, which holds the oligopoly of the sale of food (5 companies commercialize more than 60% of the food in the Spanish State) and which sees that organic food is beginning to have a pull, and that is why all the large chains are incorporating organic and local food.
For example, Carrefour has, as the main message at the entrance of many of its stores, the announcement that they offer more than 1000 organic products. This diversity of products is low, comparable to that of a very small specialized store (around 100 square meters); but enough for the company to make a flag of it in stores of many thousands of square meters.
What needs does it come to attend to?
At this time of expanding consumption, changes are also taking place in alternative food webs. It is evolving from a very clear hegemony of the model of small consumption groups (10-20 consumption units), dispersed and disorganized, to a strong diversification of access channels to local, ecological and fair food.
For example, farmers markets, small businesses, sale at the farm level, cooperative stores or even distributors with a social focus and introduction into school canteens. The diversification of commercial channels responds to a need to attend to different consumer profiles; and also to increase the volume of what is distributed, since small consumer groups often place very small orders, which is costly and tedious for the productive initiatives that supply them.
The model of consumer cooperatives (which often also have production as part of their membership) with a store open to the public during business hours, and that combine the local product of member producers with other products that allow to complete the shopping basket is being a model of great thrust in this context.
For example, with the high growth of cooperatives such as Landare (Pamplona-Iruña, more than 2,800 member families) or Bio-Alai (Vitoria-Gasteiz, with more than 1,500 member families), but also in other territories, such as Andalusia. They allow greater comfort for more diverse consumption profiles; they professionalize management, and increase the volume of food they move, lowering distribution and logistics costs, which in fresh organic food tend to be very high. In addition, they allow great security to associated production initiatives, which can "sow all their fields", as someone told me, because they will have someone to buy the production from them.
Are cooperative supermarkets the solution?
They are one of the solutions. They solve some of the problems of low volume of distribution and low product diversity in small consumer groups. But we must go to more. The horizon, in a scenario of collapse in the medium term linked to climate change and peak oil (and many other key materials, including fresh water), has to be the relocation of food systems, and their clear and mass towards agroecology.
On the way towards this horizon, the large consumer cooperatives allow us to experience important scale leaps in cooperative economic models linked to food, and for this reason they are important. But it is necessary to articulate all these small (and not so small) experiences in local agri-food systems; and at the same time link these food networks with other economic fabrics linked to the social and solidarity economy (energy, housing, clothing, consumer services, etc.), in territorialized projects of sustainable economies and radical democracies.
The "solution" to the current global unsustainability (ecological, social and ecological) seems very complex to me, and I can only glimpse in a somewhat simplistic way some steps that we are trying to take in the short term. It is necessary to go much further, and at the same time focus our efforts on building sustainability alternatives in the here and now. I think Som Alimentació is a proposal of great interest in this regard.
A real case: Valencia opens a local product supermarket created and managed by consumers
The idea of achieving a healthier and more sustainable diet has become a project for a group of consumers that was founded as a consumer cooperative a few months ago and will soon open a supermarket in Valencia with local products and through collective financing.
There are already 145 partners and they hope to grow to 200 in a few weeks to have a "critical mass prior to the opening of the store, the location of which will be decided by the partners from among some preselected stores through a vote on the Som Alimentació website ( We are Food), the cooperative that drives the supermarket.
The principles of Som Alimentació are:
- Ecological and local: sustainable products that promote the local economy.
- Direct from the producer: They inform you of its origin and who has produced it.
- Participative: important decisions and benefits are collective.
- Fair prices: For those who consume and for those who produce.
Healthy and sustainable food
For this group of consumers it is "a right" to be able to eat in a healthy and sustainable way, and it is the members of the cooperative who set the criteria that the products that will be put on sale in the supermarket must meet.
Buying directly from producers in the Valencian garden is "a luxury" that permeates the cooperative's philosophy of "the closer, the better" by giving priority to local produce over other criteria.
“In a kind of circles, you first look around Valencia; If it is not there, it is sought in the province and, if not, in the borders. It will only come from outside Spain if it is not produced here ”, explains Navalón.
Hence, they see as a contradiction the ecological offer that is sold from "thousands of kilometers", and bet on a product of proximity and minimally sustainable.
Products from responsible companies
They are also interested in products produced or manufactured by responsible companies that take care of their workers, that take into account the environment and offset the emissions of their transport, and that have an ecological seal.
The cooperative will thus create participatory guarantee stamps that will allow consumers to visit and get to know the production areas.
The vice president of the cooperative affirms that a complete catalog of the shopping basket can be prepared with these criteria, with the advantage of lower prices by eliminating intermediaries and that the general public can also buy, in addition to the members.
The Som Alimentació supermarket follows the example of other initiatives that exist in Pamplona, Vitoria and Alicante, where bioTrèmol has four stores in Alicante, Elche, Castalla and Yecla, has 700 partners and has an annual turnover of more than one million euros.
The participation of the partners can be through the payment of a monthly fee of six euros per month or by becoming a volunteer member, providing services for four hours per month.
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