On Saturday, an article was published on the online Der Spiegel edition, alleging serious accusations against the Landgard agricultural cooperative: How officials would spend much more than the indebted organisation can handle; from using luxurious company cars to expensive visits to the Oktoberfest and other events. All of this would be financed by the 3,000 member companies from the flower, fruit and vegetable industry. "Only by working together an these growers hold their own against the power of the retail trade. However, it doesn't seems to be all 'solidarity' any longer. There is growing discontent among the members about the high-handedness of their bosses and their lax supervisors. The first cracks have already shown."
The contrast with the high levels of debt is quite stark, it is claimed: "At the end of 2019, the organisation from Straelen -near the Dutch border- owned 141 million euros in liabilities. According to internal documents, more new loans are already under consideration. Some 30 million euros might be garnered from state-owned KfW Bank."
2020 was a turbulent year for Germany's largest producers' cooperative, not only because of Corona, but also at the personnel level. According to Der Spiegel, this was another reason for resentment among the members. Only last October, some of the members left to to form their own organization: "In spring, CEO Armin Rehberg had to leave, although he had been praised for his restructuring successes shortly before. As a result, Labinot Elshani, who is considered a sales talent, joined the three-member board of directors, and only a few weeks later he was separated from the team."
The article goes on to say: "The financial situation of [the producers] is clear from the often meagre prices paid for their goods. In the meantime, more members are leaving the association than there are new ones coming in. The important tomato growers from Neurath recently founded their own marketing organization, the Landgard board of directors announced in October, showing some concern.
Statement from Landgard
The Landgard management firmly refutes the accusations of the Spiegel article. Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, the organisation is not in financial difficulties: "This actual situation is very different from the online article, which gives the impression that Landgard is currently experiencing economic problems, having to seek additional loans. In fact, Landgard is currently negotiating follow-up financing for existing loans. The cooperative's debts have fallen by 57.6 percent from 2011 to the present and will be reduced further."
According to Landgard, the positive development since the crisis year of 2011 is due to the successful expansion of strategic customer relationships and the continuous acquisition of major new customers from a wide range of retail sectors.
Der Spiegel's accusations go back as far as fifteen years, long before the eight-year restructuring phase. "Landgard has always reacted to troubling situations with personnel changes, repairing any damage caused. Unfortunately, Der Spiegel's reporting was one-sided, even though the editor was aware of Landgard's economic recovery and the consequences of any misconducts."
Landgard also raises serious accusations. The report was preceded by several weeks of research by the editor, who received all relevant facts transparently in response to his accusations: "These facts were not included in his report, presumably because they negated his 'story'."