I grew up seeing vineyards, olive trees and wheat fields. When I was a kid I enjoyed very much going into fields and watch rabbits and birds around. Then I decided to study engineering and I started a long path to became a great professional, in that case far away from fields.
I have found very sad to be between two worlds. The desire of being a great engineer and the desire to have a great life balance in the nature. After 13 years of studies and different jobs since I left my town, I have come back into fields. This time with a new perspective: redefine our food supply chain starting from fields.
Let’s take a look into global data. 30 percent of the 300 largest cooperatives are found in the agriculture sector. Worldwide, cooperatives have more than 1 billion members, a large proportion of which are in the agriculture sector.
In Brazil, 37 percent of agricultural GDP is produced through cooperatives; in Egypt, 4 million farmers earn their income through cooperative membership; in Ethiopia the equivalent figure is 900 000; and in India, 16.5 million liters of milk are collected every day from 12 million farmers in dairy cooperatives. In Europe, agricultural cooperatives have an overall market share of about 60 percent of the processing and marketing of agricultural commodities and about 50 percent of the supply of inputs. FAO.ORG
In Europe the concentration of the retailers is strong. For instance, in Great Britain the 7 biggest retailers control more than 90% of the market, with Tesco controlling more than 30%. In France the five biggest retailers control 70% of the market. In Germany the four biggest retailers have 85% of the market.
Market distortions Farmers need a fair return for their products in order to ensure the sustainability of production, and a healthy rural community. Big firms may use pricing practices to capture markets, restrict exports of certain commodities to certain areas so as to influence market behavior, “subsidize” sales of goods to one country and offset these with high profit margins in other countries, etc. World Farmers Organizacion – WFO
Overall seams there is not much alternatives to cooperatives and farmers, or maybe there is. In my opinion there is a trend to consume local to get fresher products and also a social aware of precarious conditions of many farmers. Multinationals are squeezing farmers and cooperatives paying them ridiculous amount of money compare with the profit they get for it packing final product and using supermarkets networks.
These trends of getting the most of farmers and not sharing part of the profit of final product with them are destroying our environment. Farmers needs to buy more land to have enough income to survive and use high volume of pesticides to increase the yield of fields. The problem of famine is not due fields are not efficient enough, it is the farmers are not getting enough income for all work they are doing to grow their crops.
If we think about circular economic and sustainability, or as Nicola Cerantola, Ecologing, mentioned during the Open Source Circular Economy day in Madrid, a prosperous agriculture, we need to think differently. Resources are limited and we need to keep them healthy.
I have a vision. It is to develop a Europe where we produce local and consume local. Raw crops are travelling thousands of kilometers from origin to destination with very limited added value. What is the value of shipping red wine for example from Spain to France and Germany in tanker trucks, to be packed there into bottles that are shipped back to Spain to be sold in the supermarkets? Do we have room to redefine our supply chain getting local packer in different countries and at the same time develop the regions where crops are growing? I think we have and it is time to start working on it.
If you would like to add comments about it or you are thinking about designing more social supply chain of your business, please, send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org.