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438. COEXPHAL: Uniting Farmers, Moving Forward

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Coop Name: Coexphal (Association of fruit and vegetable growers of Almería) N° of Employees: 40
City: Almer N° of Members: 72
Country: Spain Year of formation: 1977
Website: http://www.coexphal.es
About this coop:

Originally formed to enable exportation, Coexphal is now an association of, and service provider to, 72 agricultural cooperatives and producer entities (themselves with 13,500 farmer members), representing 70% of exports and 65% of total production of Almería, which translates into 1.8 million tons and a turnover of over 1.500 million Euros. The associated cooperatives and companies directly employ 9,450 people and commercialize the production of 13,500 member farmers, who cultivate 17,000 ha. The sector gives employment to 35,000 people from 150 nationalities, working together.

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COEXPHAL is the Association of Fruit and Vegetable Producers of Almería (Southeast Spain), the majority of the members being small holding agricultural cooperatives who jointly market their product. It was created in 1977 as an association of 17 cooperatives to provide common services and to obtain much needed market power and recognition. Currently, it includes over 100 cooperatives. Over 100 people work in the COEXPHAL group providing a wide range of services to members (see www.coexphal.es for a services and activities and http://almeriaenverde.es for current topics and information). COEXPHAL represent 65% of exports and 70% of F&V production in Almería, with a production of 2 million tons, a turnover of over 1.6 billion Euros, 8,100 farmer members and 20,800 ha. under cultivation giving work to 35,000 workers. COEXPHAL´s role has changed significantly over the years. While its first task was to gain European market access for its cooperatives (today their products reach 43 countries), COEXPHAL members have had to make innovative changes to production processes, product selection and packaging, passing from bulk sales (and low prices) to consumer ready product, allowing direct sales to supermarket chains. This value added remains in Almería territory and is redistributed to the members of the producer cooperatives. Some of the most important actions COEXPHAL has taken to add value for members are as follows: Biological Control To reduce the use of agricultural chemicals in the production process, COEXPHAL led the implementation of biological control and integrated production to fight against pests and plant disease as an alternative to pesticides, thus creating a more sustainable agriculture. This effort, built on the cooperative network, resulted in the “green revolution” in 2007 in Almería´s production. COEXPHAL ´s members are responsible for 90% (area) of Almería´s biological control and integrated production and COEXPHAL is behind the company Biocolor, which develops and markets biological control methods. Food Safety and Quality Certification Food safety and plant health are constant concerns for farmers and a standard demand for clients. As a response COEXPHAL created its own laboratory for analysis in 1988 which permits farmers and cooperatives to test and control food quality, as well as soil, water, plants, fertilizer, seeds and farm installations. It promoted the elaboration of F&V quality production standards and certification within the ISO. These standards are more rigourous than those required by Spanish and European law and are now homologated and recognized as the highest standards in the market. 100% of the area cultivated by Coexphal´s cooperatives have this certification. Coexphal set up and is the main shareholder of the company, Agrocolor, which is the largest F&V inspection/certification company in Spain. Association of Producer Organisations of Fruits and Vegetables and Interprofessional Groups Coexphal has advised and coordinated its cooperatives to qualify as European Union designated Producer Organisations of F&V under the Common Market Organisation (CMO) regulations and helped the cooperatives to devise their operating programs under the EU regulations. In 2007 it helped set up an interprofessional group on a regional Andalusian level (Hortyfruta) to promote the sector. European Organisational Integration Recognizing the importance of the abovementioned CMO, the current challenge for Coexphal is to integrate the representative associations of F&V producer organisations on a European level to guarantee survival and competitiveness of farmers and their cooperatives. Producer organisations and their associations tend to operate on a regional or national level, which weakens their position. Cooperatives have traditionally led the associated producer movements and must continue to defend farmer interests.

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