Cooperatives develop organic agriculture in Costa Rica
by Redaktion (comments: 0)
Cooperativas Sin Fronteras Internacional is an alliance of producer cooperatives in Latin America offering organic and FLO Fairtrade certified products, and of importers with a special focus on ethical trade. With the support of the CSF office, the producing members sell their coffee, cocoa, fruit, honey, nuts and sugar on the domestic market or to their importing members Alce Nero in Italy, Ethiquable in France and La Siembra in Canada. New products are constantly being developed, and a regular presence at important fairs like BioFach Nuremberg, BioFach Brazil and Sana enables them to find new markets worldwide. (Picture: Oranges of Ecocitrus in Brazil)
The products of CSF are sold on regional markets or exported as raw materials or finished products. White and brown sugar from Peru, Costa Rica and Cuba, polyfloral honey and cocoa beans, for example, as well as green and roasted coffee, are very important for both export and for local markets. Tropical fruit jam is made in Peru, the country of origin, for the local and export market. Cocoa powder too is produced in Peru, and chocolate is manufactured in Europe from the raw materials from Peru or in situ. Tropical fruit juices are made in Italy from single fruit pulp, and juice is exported directly by the producers in Brazil and Costa Rica. Fresh fruit and juice from CSF are also available on the market in Brazil. Cookies from raw materials supplied by the cooperative’s members are produced in Italy. So far, cookies with spelt and cocoa are available, as well as with wheat, quinoa and cocoa nibs. The production of the juice and the cookies in Italy is organised by Alce Nero. (Picture: Coffee beans are selected at Prodecoop, Nicaragua)
All of CSF's products for the foreign markets are sold under the name of the importer: Alce Nero, Ethiquable and Camino (the brand of La Siembra), and most of the products have an additional label on the packaging displaying "Cooperativas Sin Fronteras" as well as the name of the producers supplying the material or the finished product. Many of the products for the domestic markets are sold at local farmers' markets and some of the members own stores where the products are also offered. On the local markets, the products cannot be attributed to CSF yet. However, CSF is working with their members in order to have the same presentation concept as for exported products. (Picture: Coopecañera, sugar cane cooperative in Costa Rica)
Currently, there are negotiations with COOP Italy that are focusing on the production of organic and Fairtrade honey. CSF also has an international presence at the important fairs of the sector, like BioFach in Nuremberg, where some of the products were presented and where members participated in a meeting about organic honey. The next fairs CSF will take part in will be SANA in Italy and BioFach Brazil.
The main objectives of Cooperativas Sin Fronteras, based on the democratic principles of cooperativism, are to contribute to the development, growth and consolidation of their members and the integration of producers and food processors. CSF aims to serve as a bridge wherever possible to shorten the food chain by promoting a direct relationship between growers and consumers and to add value to the products directly at source. Fair marketing is seen as essential, whether it is at a local or international level. Relationships and alliances between farmers, processors and distributors are established with the additional support of NGO’s, foundations and various other organizations. (Picture: Coffee in Acosta, Costa Rica)
The members of the CSF’s executive board are elected by the general assembly consisting of all members, both producers' coops and importers. The current president is a woman - Merling Preza -, she is also the general manager of the producers' organisation Prodecoop in Nicaragua. CSF currently runs two offices. The head office is located in San José, Costa Rica, where the activities of the Cooperativas Sin Fronteras are coordinated with producing members in all countries. The exception is Brazil, where there is a Cooperativas Sin Fronteras office which takes care of its national members. (Picture: General assembly 2011)
Cooperativas Sin Fronteras was formally created in 2008. The organisation currently consists of 20 members from eleven countries that represent a total of 12,660 families. Sixteen members are cooperatives or rural farmers’ associations, and two members are non-governmental associations that provide technical support. Three of the members are business partners and one is a cooperative financial consortium. Any cooperative or growers association that shares and approves CSF’s objectives and principles can be accepted. However, all participating growers have to be certified organic or at least be in transition. All production is carried out according to organic guidelines (Ifoam and Agroecology), to the FLO Fairtrade standard and to the Slow Food principles. (Picure: Araza from Appta, Costa Rica)
The countries where producers are based are Costa Rica, Brazil, Argentina, Peru, Panama, Nicaragua, Guatemala and El Salvador. The importers belonging to CSF are La Siembra in Canada, Alce Nero in Italy and Ethiquable in France. The CSF office team is involved in various measures to support their members, like currently improving the productivity of organic cocoa. New products are constantly being developed. At this point in time, the production of banana chips and other types of chips is being considered, as well as banana puree and new varieties of juice. The Cooperativas Sin Fronteras offices do not export directly, however - the producer cooperatives as members export their products themselves. (Picture: Chestnut tree in Brasil)
The CSF offices assist their producers in finding new ways to add value to their raw materials in the country of origin. For example, sugar is now made available in 500 gram packages (picture) ready for European supermarkets instead of in the usual 25 kg bags. The office team also helps to improve the management of the coops. CSF has just finished a project with Avina, where a training programme for improving management skills was developed. Currently, a project is being run with HIVOS, a Dutch Agency, aiming at providing technical support for their members. There are negotiations with EED (Germany) and Agriterra (Netherlands) to help members gain market access and to give them training in quality improvement. Also, the development of sales on the national markets is of great importance.
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