Cooperativa CoopeAgri El General R.L. is based in Pérez Zeledón, Costa Rica. Today it groups about 20,000 small coffee and sugar producers. Its history began 45 years ago, when it had about 365 members, a number that has increased exponentially. Its coffee exports amount to 170 thousand hundredweights per year, and it exports 30 thousand hundredweights sugar; these results have been achieved trading within the fair trade system.
Joining the organization, thousands of small producers have found an opportunity – together with other producers – to trade their products in a fair system. CoopeAgri has become an organization that produces and markets coffee for both the domestic and international market and it also deals with sugarcane and organic fertilizers processing and marketing. CoopeAgris members directly benefit from the four supermarkets owned by the co-operative, a store for agricultural supplies, a fuel station, a coffee shop, and a hardware store. Moreover, the co-operative provides forestry services and collaborates with Credecoop, which funds its members. All above within a diversification strategy whose most important aim is to favour its producers in different activity areas.
CoopeAgri’s governance system is totally democratic and its members represented by their coordinators and delegates are responsible for the decision-making process and for the control of the company. They gather together once a year for the General Assembly, integrating the Board of Directors with the committees for family development (Comités de Desarrollo de la Familia).
The Assembly approves the allocation of surplus each year. Last year for instance it was invested in the protection of the Peñas Blancas river, in technical and technological assistance programmes, as well as in the sugarcane industry recovery.
CoopeAgri has always been an active Small Producers’ Organization; thanks to its work it has registered a constant increase in the number of its members and its sales, which led the co-operative to be the leading first-tier co-operative within the fair trade system in Latin America, and the third largest coffee exportation company in Costa Rica. Moreover, the city where the co-operative is based (Pérez Zeledón) ranks first among Latin American countries for fair trade.
CoopeAgri is a member of the Latin American and Caribbean Network of Small Fairtrade Producers (CLAC) and Fairtrade International. Last November CoopeAgri hosted the International Day for Fair Trade Businesses, in which international buyers and Latin American small producers organizations, among others, participated.
Organizations such as CoopeAgri are a reminder that small producers have many challenges to face, but they also have great hope of achieving the best results by working together!