Agricultural organizations, such as Asaja, have expressed their concern about the purchase of Patatas Hijolusa, one of the leading operators nationwide, as it marks the landing of venture capital in the country's potato sector.
The sale of a majority stake in Patatas Hijolusa to a venture capital fund, reported by elEconomista.es, is not good news for the sector, said Joaquin Pino, vice president of Asaja Castilla y Leon.
This summer, the Gomez brothers, owners of the Leonese company, requested offers from venture capital funds to relinquish the company's majority shareholding. After a first screening, Proa Capital was the favorite to take control of a company that last year put 110 million kilos of potatoes on the market and had a turnover of 60 million euros. The venture capital fund could pay around 100 million euros for the Leonese company.
"It's not good news that hedge funds enter the agri-food industry, in this case via a packaging plant. The companies that have worked the best in this sector and have given the most employment are family companies, those that were born in the territory and have been growing and have a commitment to the land, to people, farmers, and ranchers," stated Joaquin Pino, who is also Asaja's representative in the recently created Interprofessional de la Patata de Castilla y Leon (Castille and Leon's Potato Interbranch Organization).
"Funds are interested in economic performance. The faster and bigger, the better. They don't look at that social part, that of structuring the value chain and generating employment in rural areas. We hope that the people who continue to direct it will also think about these issues."
According to Pino, the landing of Proa Capital in the sector may disrupt the market. "The example we have is what happened in the country's distribution sector, which has been left in the hands of French capital. There we have Día or Carrefour, which followed a strategy to collapse the national dairy sector so that we would then purchase all the surplus milk that France has. Something similar can happen in the potato sector because it is also a perishable product," the agrarian leader added.