Most of the population, especially the middle and the lower class, assists to these fairs to procure their vegetable supply produced by farmers from Lepaterique, Santa Ana, Tatumbla, The Angeles valley, San Juan, and Santa Lucia, among others. The rest of the population: middle and upper class often make their purchases in supermarkets, of which Walmart (19 stores) and La Colonia (17 stores) are the biggest chains accounting between 30% and 40% of the vegetables demand in the capital. The requirements of these chains in terms of supply, consistency, safety, price and quality has forced horticultural farmers’ organisations to organize themselves and search for more efficient and sustainable mechanisms for the trading of their products, to comply with the requirements and to obtain better or at least more stable prices. The most common procedure in organisational terms has been that small producers gather with cooperatives, farmers’ associations, and associative companies for multiple services. Nevertheless, the Private Fund for Rural Companies’ Development (Fundación Privada para el Desarrollo Empresarial Rural, FUNDER) chose to organise 8 small farmer producer companies under an entity called “Agribusiness Consortium of Honduras” (Consorcio Agrocomercial de Honduras).
Originally, it was created to solve the main problem of vegetable farmers: losses due to delayed selling of the product. Quality degraded, vegetables start to rot, and of course these vegetables are not accepted any more by supermarkets like Walmart, la Colonia and la Antorcha. Also the buying party does not take responsibility: the constant delay of payment for their products; competition between chains to sell their products, because many of them have similar products; the lack of storage; inadequate logistics to deliver the products, etc.
Currently, one of the essential services the consortium offers to its partners is the business establishment. Additionally, and with the technical support for and by technical staff, staggered planting plans are organised, which are required to cover the demand. At this point, each company is responsible for the fulfillment of the production according to their capacities and to provide, as assigned in the production and supply plan.
This organisation is relatively new and on its consolidation and positioning stage, the priority has been to improve the producers’ income of its partner companies, followed by quota management and offerings for their own products, broadening their commercialization services for vegetable farmers from the same integrated producers, keeping a constant integration management of other companies, which are demanding these products within the consortium.
FUNDER keeps helping this consortium through technical assessment, support and promotion for the implementation of good agricultural and manufacturing practices, generation of added value, and assessment in the implementation of a quality label allowing their vegetables trading and building their own-brand as small producers.
Rikolto has taken this consortium as partner since 2014. We have strengthened technical, entrepreneurial and organisational skills of this consortium, providing back-up in the defining of strategies to their role, assessing in the preparation of their strategic plan, looking for market solutions, which would allow them to keep their business model, so every company and each stakeholder of the consortium obtains a secure, fair and inclusive market for their products. Given the importance of (social, economic, environmental…) sustainability, Rikolto has managed to implement strategies and actions allowing the consortium to supply markets of Tegucigalpa on a sustainable basis, to guarantee safe and innocuous products and implementing sustainable productive models that blend good agricultural practices and integrated pest management.
A very interesting element regarding sustainability is the vast majority of the producers participation in the consortium, in a private initiative called “Resources for my land” (Recursos para mi tierra), in which the bank La Banca Privada via the FICOHSA bank, the supermarket chain La Colonia and the foundation FUNDER, have established a deed trust to attend these producers. Under this initiative, the supermarket chain La Colonia supplies up to 80% of their vegetables demand. This way, FICOHSA bank provides production credits (and an agricultural insurance), FUNDER offers technical assessment services and La Colonia buys in the percentages referred to before. With this, producers obtain a safe market and good prices. While this initiative has been good to small producers, there is still room for improvement in aspects directly related to environmental and economic sustainability, and to the inclusiveness in trading relationships and in the achievement of better income for farmers’ families. There are signs the access to this initiative is limited and that the services’ costs (for technical assessment, credits, insurance…) make this model still expensive.