Vegetables in Matalgapa, Nicaragua - PROJECT ENDED
Vegetables in Matalgapa, Nicaragua - PROJECT ENDED
The food retail industry in Central America is dominated by a small number of supermarkets. Their involvement is thus key to making the vegetable market more inclusive and sustainable. A fairer relationship between farmers and companies, as well as better prices would ensure continuity for farmers, securing the food chain and giving the producers enough additional revenue to invest in environmentally-friendly technologies. We consider these steps necessary to fight climate change and feed the growing population.
The Nicaraguan vegetable market is still largely informal. However, in recent years the formal market has expanded and become more significant. It now represents 20% of the total. In the future, supermarkets such as La Colonia and Walmart will continue to increase their influence in the region. A stable commercial chain would be a win-win situation for both sides, as the farmers would have stable prices and the supermarkets would not need to import vegetables from other countries.
COPRAHOR is a vegetable producers’ cooperative with over 10 years of experience. They represent 42 farmers in two regions of Matalgapa: Carreta Quebrada and Las Delicias. They have commercial relationships with Walmart and La Colonia, but the latter is their main client. Although they have been working with La Colonia for over 8 years, the cooperative still has yet to sign a formal contract. The main obstacle is the cooperative’s fear of not being able to fulfil the volume requirements and being forced to pay a fine. They do not trust their production because the crops are regularly affected by diseases.
The cooperative offers their members inputs and some technical assistance. They also have two warehouses where the products are gathered and sorted before being sent to the supermarkets. The goods are transported in a refrigerated truck bought with credit provided by La Colonia. The relationship is considered beneficial for both partners, and La Colonia’s continuous expansion, with an average of 3 new shops per year, is a guarantee that demand will increase. VECO is there to make sure that their relationship bears fruit.
Farmers in the region are recognized as job providers with each farm hiring two or three labourers, and the cooperative also has 20 employees. The farmers depend entirely on the vegetable trade for their income. They have relatively small plots, 1 hectare on average, but there are possibilities for increasing these areas. Most of the farms have irrigation systems and there has been an increase in the use of protective tunnels, but the lack of access to input limits them to 2 or 3 annual cultivation cycles when, in perfect conditions, they could easily have 4.
- Farms are periodically affected by diseases that can destroy half of their produce.
- Productivity is low because of a lack of technology, which also affects the number of productive cycles that can occur annually.
- The farmers have difficulties accessing credit to invest in new technologies and inputs.
- Of the 45 farmers, only 4 are women.
- The two cooperative warehouses are old, badly equipped and understaffed.
- The cooperative has organisational problems and lacks the management skills and accurate information on production and prices to create a business plan.
- Despite their 8 years of commercial history with La Colonia, their relationship is still strictly informal.
- Only five farmers have Good Agricultural Practices certificates, which will be needed in the future to work with Walmart and La Colonia.
- The current production levels can cover, in the best case scenario, half of La Colonia’s demand in tomatoes, green peppers, cucumbers.
- Use the Farmer Fields Schools to promote the use of protective techniques and Good Agricultural Practises to guarantee production in winter, increase productivity and prevent diseases.
- Structuring a good staggered production plan according to the demand of La Colonia and Walmart
- We will work to strengthen the relationship between COPRAHOR and La Colonia in order to create an inclusive commercial contract that will benefit both partners.
- We will engage different stakeholders (public powers and private institutions) to find a solution to the credit problem.
- We will encourage farmers to apply for the GAP certificates, explaining that they will be necessary in the future to trade with supermarkets.
- We will prioritize the incorporation of women and youth into the chain.
- We will facilitate the renovation of the two warehouses, giving each of them a Good Practices in Management Manual.
- We will train the cooperative’s technicians so they can supervise the management of the warehouses and fields. We will also help with the selection processes for new staff.
- We will encourage farmers to expand their plots with the help of Caritas.
- To strengthen the cooperative organisation, we will promote leadership and management courses.
- Overall sales have increased by 19%.
- One of the two warehouses has been renovated and both warehouses have a Good Practices in Management Manual.
- The overall cultivated area has increased by 15 hectares.
- The Agricultural Department of Nicaragua has given a grant to COPRAHOR, and three providers are offering short-term credits to allow access to inputs.
- The participation of women has increased by 6%.
What do we expect in the long-term?
- The Nicaraguan vegetable markets will become more sustainable as other companies follow the example of La Colonia.
- Women will be active in the vegetable trade.
- The new techniques will make the farmers more resilient to climate chance.