Cooperativism is a business model with three great strengths: it promotes an equitable distribution of wealth, it gives decisive importance to human capital, and it is democratic in both business participation and decision-making. The cooperatives in rural areas and large cities, dedicated to agricultural and livestock products and new areas such as consultancy, technology I+D+i, and the energy sector, have demonstrated a highly competitive business level.
There are currently 711 cooperatives in Andalusia, according to data from the latest report by the Observatorio del Cooperativismo Agroalimentario Español (OSCAE), corresponding to the year 2021. Almeria maintains its leadership in agricultural cooperatives thanks to the contribution of horticulture. The cooperatives are the driving force behind the province’s economy. The beginning and subsequent development of the fruit and vegetable sector up to the present day is based on the first farmers and their families as one of its main pillars. These small farmers started with an average of between 2 and 2.4 hectares of land. Today they are recognised as the protagonists of the so-called “Almeria’s miracle”. However, this network of small businesses could not have been sustained without the parallel development of agricultural cooperatives and societies.
They are the most appropriate instrument to guarantee the stability of the agricultural sector and are the real driving force behind the creation of social networks to unite the community and achieve common objectives.
In those early days, around the 1960s, credit cooperatives were also fundamental, including the Caja Rural de Almería, today Cajamar, which is considered the leading Spanish cooperative business group in terms of turnover according to the Spanish Confederation of Social Economy Businesses (CEPES).
Also, the Caja de Ahorros de Almería, now part of Unicaja, “encourages social responsibility, promotes research, education and awareness of environmental issues through seminars and activities which benefit a large part of Almeria society, not only those involved in agriculture”.
In today’s uncertain economic climate, cooperatives are even more important because they don’t relocate, they continue to contribute to development and they create jobs. Cooperatives are vital in helping farmers to position themselves in the market. In fact, the larger cooperatives show the most important evolution in turnover, reinforcing the need for integration to improve their position in the market.