On the occasion of the International Day of Cooperatives, held on July 4, the president of Cooperativas Agro-Alimentarias, Ángel Villafranca, gave an interview to Efeagro in which he defended the role of cooperativism during the crisis, highlighting the importance of a “well-oiled” agro-food production chain in the EU. Villafranca has also called for "extraordinary funds" to alleviate the consequences of the pandemic in agriculture within the framework of the reconstruction plans of the European Union, because he believes that the aid received is insufficient.
Spain has some 3,700 agro-food cooperatives, which bring together 1.17 million members and generate 102,000 jobs.
24-hour shifts in cooperatives
According to Villafranca, during the first weeks of the state of alarm in Spain, when "there was the perception that food was running out," there were cooperatives working 24-hour shifts, Saturdays and Sundays, to ensure that there was no lack of products.
He says that "society should not forget about this sector, and this should be reflected in an adequate budget, specifically within the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP)".
He stresses that the agricultural sector has not been in lockdown, but it has suffered economic losses due to the closure of the hospitality and catering sector. Consequently, he laments that the EU has not allocated a considerable share of the 750,000 million Euro of its reconstruction plan to agriculture.
Regarding the measures that the EU has already launched to help producers, Villafranca says that these are backed with funds that were already allocated within the current CAP; therefore, he is asking for an extraordinary budget to face the losses caused by COVID-19.
It could take years to recover
Regarding recovery forecasts, he says that the reopening of the hospitality industry has not yet been reflected on agricultural turnover, and he hopes that both consumption and income will gradually increase.
However, he warns that there are "future projections" and studies that predict that there won't be a return to the situation prior to COVID-19 until 2022, 2023 or 2024, especially for the productions that are highly dependent on the hospitality industry.
Villafranca is asking for enough prevention so that in case of new outbreaks, industries won't have to close.
He also calls to promote "local products grown less than 100 or 200 kilometers away from consumers," as well as to make an effort to restore balance to the market.