Antonio Tirado, chairman of Onubafruit, explained to our magazine what cooperativism has meant as a development model, as well as the competitive advantages that it has given to its partner companies
As chairman of a second degree cooperative that has managed to reach a leading position in the sector, what are the most relevant aspects in the development of the cooperative world of Onubafruit? What have these advances meant for the farmers?
In a cooperative, the motto is “united we stand”. This means that common interests bring us together and, when we combine efforts and capital to carry out our business activity, we have advantages and products that our cooperatives could never have achieved on their own.
The union has brought us into direct contact with clients by eliminating the middlemen and this has given us greater profitability. It has allowed us to be able to diversify products, varieties and processes and, at the same time, perform a fair sharing of the resources and of the profits, which, in turn, has allowed us to be one step ahead of other cooperatives.
You are a member of one of the cooperatives which, due to its location, suffers most from water scarcity. Do you believe that the same advances would have been made without this strength provided by cooperativism? What point has been reached on the subject of water?
I am sure that, without the support from the cooperative members and from the farmers who have joined other organisations, such as the irrigation associations or the County’s irrigation platform, we would have never achieved the same results. Fortunately, today we have reached a scenario that is slightly more encouraging with the surface water concessions for almost 500 hectares, beneficiaries of the transfer of 4.99 hm3 and with the long-awaited 15 hm3 approved for the remaining surface area. We also have more hectares of legalised irrigation and we are waiting for the resolution of the ones that posed allegations and have not yet been regularised.
Onubafruit has taken giant steps on many aspects, such as the introduction of more productive varieties that are in line with consumer tastes. What can you tell me about this?
The variety development is aimed at private breeders, and the fact that we considered working to obtain new varieties was a real necessity.
The joint investments have allowed us to take important steps regarding variety development, experimenting with different crops, in collaboration with international programmes.
We have programmes for all the red fruits that we produce. One of the most important ones is our genetic improvement programme for blueberries, for which we are expecting to see results next year. Added to these programmes, there is a new line of trials in subtropical fruit, with papaya and mango grown under plastic. Our aim is a complete research and development programme that continues with the commitment to the differentiation of the offer by Onubafruit in the markets.
The umbrella of the cooperative movement has given us a competitive position in the sector and this has been our commitment to the farmers’ development, which has been translated into the security and confidence of our cooperative partners.
In a globalised world, which is subject to very fast changes, what are Onubafruit’s main challenges?
Our strategic plans, policies and actions must take on a higher level of demand in the targets to be developed, as well as show more commitment to a sustainable future, in addition to economic profitability.
The important aspect is that farming must continue to be a livelihood and that future generations of producers must receive the land and the knowledge to be able to do this.