In Spain, organic food consumers and producers are joining forces to cut out the middleman. Through markets, associations and cooperatives that promote organic consumption, the inhabitants of towns and cities now have access to products that would not reach their tables otherwise. Whether it’s because of high prices or the lack of supply, the fact is that consumption of organic food products among the inhabitants of this producing country (Spain is among the top four EU countries in terms of surface area devoted to ecological agriculture) accounts for less than 2% of the total food consumption. At present, 30% of Spain’s organic food production is consumed domestically, whereas the remaining 70% is exported (Ángeles Parra, general secretary of the Vida Sana (Healthy Living) association and director of Biocultura (Bioculture).
The organic markets, associations and cooperatives that exist throughout the country have emerged in response to the increasing demand for quality food products at an affordable price. Some have come together to form provincial federations, while others prefer to operate independently. The organic and locally-produced foodstuffs are purchased directly from the farmer or cattle breeder, which means they are cheaper than products sold in supermarkets or in specialized organic food stores. José Ramón Becerra, secretary of the Federación Vasca de Asociaciones de Consumidores (Basque Federation of Consumers’ Associations), states that a medium-size cooperative that supplies 100 families works with an average of ten producers, the basic foodstuffs being purchased directly once the price has been fixed by buyers and sellers.
Pilar Galindo, one of the founders of the Grupos Autogestionados de Konsumo (GAK) de Madrid (Self-Managed Consumption Groups of Madrid), explains how they work: «We basically work on the Internet. We draw up a list, we send it off, and the recipient opens it up at home and replies within 48 hours. Then we add up all the requested products and place an order with the producers. The consumption cooperatives also contact the haulage companies, negotiate their rates, etc. The GAKs also offer training workshops and courses on organic food and healthy eating. «People think they eat well and they don’t know anything. We think junk food is just hamburgers, but we eat a lot of packaged and processed products», warns Galindo.