Mrs. Cátia Rosas, representative of Copa Cogeca Portugal’s ConfAgri, talked to AgroTypos about the effort made in Portugal for the creation of operational groups. These groups may be constituted by farmers, scientists and representatives of agri-food sector and may be financed through the new European Union (EU) programs. According to Mrs. Rosas “The group’s success depends on the willingness of its members to share their ideas and experiences”.
In Portugal, at what stage is the creation of operational Groups?
In Portugal, as well as in Greece, the operational groups have not started yet because the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) measure has not been opened yet. The criteria that must be applied are still under negotiations with the Minister of Agriculture and the Farming Cooperatives. But our aim is the promotion of the cooperation contacts between the interested partners, so that we will be ready when the RDP measure will be opened. What we say to farmers is that these partnerships should take place under the umbrella of Cooperatives. In 2012 we managed to launch a cooperation program for all rural Cooperatives in Portugal. We try to find innovative solutions to address the real problems of farmers. In Portugal, there are more than 750 Farming Cooperatives which could play an important role to this effort.
Is there interest for such collaborations?
In our country there is interest in collaborations for energy production projects in which rural organizations, local government and other “players” of the energy market are involved. Also there is interest in increasing the competitiveness of agricultural products. Innovation does not mean we only have new ideas but we also materialize them. We try to be ready to participate in these programs when the RDP measure will be opened. The concerned persons should know that a proper preparation of partners should be done before the proposal for cooperation takes place. Then, if the proposal is not acceptable, it should not be abandoned but be improved.
Are the farmers in your country ready to collaborate with scientists and businessmen?
A farmer who has a problem should find others who are facing the same problem and make a team to solve it. There is a series of EU “tools” which aim to link farmers with researchers and market executives, who have innovative ideas. Farmers should take advance of the tools sponsoring partnerships. Of course both sides should be interested in collaboration. In Portugal, I think, it is common for the producers to cooperate. The scientists, in turn, should find practical solutions to the problems that the agricultural production faces in order to be useful to farmers. The same applies to the food market strains. The European Commission (EC) goes one step further by proposing cooperation of farmers from different EU Member States and by creating the European Innovation Partnerships. The Cogeca has a dominant role in this effort. There are already many European programs that involve cooperative organizations from EU countries, and Portugal is among those.
What are the main problems of the Portuguese farmers?
Portugal has similar to Greece problems in agricultural production. There are problems due to climate change such as problems with irrigation because most of the country is threatened by desertification. The contribution of the agricultural sector in the Portuguese economy is estimated at 4.5% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). A percentage of 9.3% of the country’s workforce is employed in agriculture crop and animal husbandry. Vegetables are mainly cultivated in south Portugal, there are breeding facilities in the center of the country, while viticulture is being developed in Portugal’s border with Spain. The Portuguese exported agricultural products are almost the same with the Greek ones, such as olive oil, milk, etc. On a daily basis the ConfAgri gives technical support to Cooperatives and individual producers. In the future are the major challenges for the agricultural sector. By 2050 we should produce goods to feed the expected 9 billion people on Earth. We have to strengthen the agricultural sector to cover people’s dietary requirements. The World Bank recommends farmers to be associated in Cooperatives in order to increase the total production and their income. We ought to collaborate and create Farming Cooperatives to solve common problems of the agricultural sector. It is provided that the group’s success depends on the willingness of its members to share their ideas and experiences.