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Accepted Paper:

The change of scale, a lever for agroecological cooperatives sustainability  
Patricia Homs (University of Barcelona and Aresta Cooperative.) Gemma Flores-Pons (Aresta Cooperativa) Glòria Llenas Regordosa Adrià Martín Mayor (Aresta Cooperativa)

Paper short abstract:

We focus on proximity food provisioning networks composed of consumers’ food cooperatives and small organic farmers in the region of Catalonia. After years of growth these networks are experiencing new challenges. We explore the lack of scale economy as a possible cause of their unsustainability.

Paper long abstract:

On this paper we focus on proximity food provisioning networks composed of consumers' food cooperatives and small organic farmers where different forms of cooperation and reciprocity articulate socioeconomic exchanges. We have carried out the ethnographic fieldwork in the politically autonomous region of Catalonia (Spain) where these cooperative networks have spread in the last fifteen years decade. Thus, while in early 2000 there were over ten food cooperatives, the most recent data indicates that there are more than 150 organizations.

However, in the last two years this increase has suffered some transformations. For example, it is observed that the growth rate in the number of food coops has apparently decreased, waiting lists have disappeared and some collectives have problems regarding economic sustainability. In this sense, although there are new additions in the field of agro-ecological production, some farmers have left their lands because of socioeconomic issues.

The study systematizes the strengths and weaknesses identified by participants of main agroecological cooperative networks in the region, focusing on socio-economic practices and links among agents. Moreover, the research focuses on the potentialities and limitations due to the "standardized" size of the majority of food coops and farmer's projects in Catalonia. We explore it as a possible factor of this slowdown in growth and the present crisis: the lack of scale economy in agroecological networks. The difficulties on the actual proximity food provisioning networks are visible on some specific issues concerning logistics management, financial aspects, variety of products, care, lack of support for productive experiences, and inclusion, among others.

Panel P015
Food value and values in Europe: economic legacies and alternative futures in production and consumption
  Session 1