THE COOPERATIVE

The beginnings, 1919-1932

The La Fraternal de L’Albagés cooperative was created in 1919 with 12 founding members, men with a vision of the future and, at that time, revolutionaries. The olives were ground in the Mas Roig mill for the first year while the cooperative was under construction. Later we purchased the presses from this mill and installed them in ours. Starting up an olive mill is a big investment. Our predecessors did not have much capital. The first members did not earn anything at the start of the adventure but had to take out a loan of 200,000 pesetas from the Commonwealth of Catalonia to start up the cooperative’s first olive mill. The founding members had to secure the loan with their personal assets. New members came in slowly and by 28 November 1932 there were 117 members.

The difficult postwar

The Spanish Civil War broke out in 1936, ushering in a harsh, difficult time for everyone. Private property was abolished and the cooperative was seized to be used as a food distribution center for the village people. The olive mill stopped working and cultivation ceased. The cabins on the property became a refuge where the rural population sought shelter from the bombings in L’Albagés and other towns and cities in Catalonia and Spain. The cooperative attempted to restart after the war ended in 1939. The managers were appointed directly by the authorities of the new regime. The cooperative members still had to repay the first loan of 200,000 pesetas. The only way to settle the debt was to sell the mill’s best press and mortgage the cooperative for 25,000 pesetas in 1943. It was not until 1947 that olive milling and oil production resumed.

The Cooperative grows

The cooperative had around a hundred members between 1947 and 1957, after which it grew to a total of 130 members. A first attempt was made to purchase a tractor in 1959, but it was not finally achieved until 1960. Discussion of setting up a loan department began around 1960, and it became a reality in 1963. The mill was expanded in the 1960s with the repair of the seven existing vats and construction of four more, with a capacity of 250,000 kg of oil. The cooperative warehouse was expanded and two presses, an extractor and a hopper for pomace were purchased. The cooperative grew and more changes were made in 1966 with the construction of a new “oil room”, installation of a centrifuge and two new presses and expansion of the machine room. New racking tanks were installed and the scale was moved outdoors in 1969.

The results of a great harvest

The 1970-71 season ended with a disastrous frost that damaged the trees and ruined later harvests. Early in the 1970s the Spanish government banned oil exports. Together with the import duties imposed by the Common Market on non-community countries, like Spain at the time, it became more difficult to sell oil to Italy, a traditional buyer of our oil. Prices were lower on the domestic market than on foreign markets and oil producers were forced to sell their products at a loss. By 1976 La Fraternal was normalized and recovered the Catalan language for all its documents.

Modernization

A new continuous grinding system was installed using a Pieralsi machine in 1982. Hoppers were built also and olives began to be weighed in bulk. The traditional methods of bagging and storing olives were discontinued. The arduous task of separating the olives from the leaves and stones before taking the olives to the mill was eliminated in 1985 with the installation of a separating machine for this purpose. The Borges Blanques Designation of Origin, today Les Garrigues Protected Designation of Origin, installed a machine for calculating yields in our cooperative, which was used for our own olive batches.

Entry into the common market

Spain entered the European Economic Community on 1 January 1986, which changed the prospects for exporting to the European market thanks to the elimination of import duties. In addition, the EEC guaranteed a minimum price for oil, which was not affected by good or bad harvests and was less subject to offers from bulk buyers. In the early stages of integration farmers began to receive production aid, which was later extended to consumption. This was an incentive to install a manual packing machine in the cooperative and create an “agroshop”. Entry into the Common Market brought major changes, such as VAT, the introduction of a computer system for the cooperative’s accounting and disposable plastic bottles for oil. The refillable plastic jugs were eliminated and the old oil jars characteristic of traditional larders where no longer used.

Spain entered the European Economic Community on 1 January 1986, which changed the prospects for exporting to the European market thanks to the elimination of import duties. In addition, the EEC guaranteed a minimum price for oil, which was not affected by good or bad harvests and was less subject to offers from bulk buyers. In the early stages of integration farmers began to receive production aid, which was later extended to consumption. This was an incentive to install a manual packing machine in the cooperative and create an “agroshop”. Entry into the Common Market brought major changes, such as VAT, the introduction of a computer system for the cooperative’s accounting and disposable plastic bottles for oil. The refillable plastic jugs were eliminated and the old oil jars characteristic of traditional larders where no longer used.

Innovation

With 1991 came new stainless steel racking tanks and an electronic scale for weighing olives. The hoppers were divided into four compartments to facilitate grinding the olives as quickly as possible after harvesting them.

A record harvest

The 1992/1993 harvest was one of the best in the history of the cooperative, with a production of 1,800,407 kg of olives. In 1997 the cooperative replaced the original continuous grinder with a larger two-stage machine with greater milling capacity (80,000 kg of olives in 24 hours). The cooperative is concerned with the environment and uses recyclable 5-liter plastic bottles. We introduced 2-liter bottles with handles in 2007/2008 with a view to convenience and health, especially for housewives.

The terrible frost of the 21st century's first winter

The prospects for the 2001/2002 season looked good but were blighted by low temperatures, with snow and frosts starting on 15 December. The temperature fluctuations ruined part of the harvest and caused irreparable damage to the trees; 16% had to be cut down to the ground, 70% at the crown and 14% had to be pruned drastically. This disaster clearly showed that, despite technical advances, farmers are still subject to the laws of nature. Our cooperative and all the others in Les Garrigues spent five years processing applications for aid from the Catalan government’s Department of Agriculture to alleviate the economic effects of the frosts, in addition to applying for aid made available by the Catalan Department of Labor to keep the organization running. The 2001 frosts resulted in a completely lost harvest in 2002/2003. The mill could not be opened, and the disaster was of such magnitude that many members were unable to harvest even enough olives to make oil for their own consumption.

Reform of the common agricultural policy

The EEC established a new single payment system for olive oil production subsidies in 2005, consisting of aid to growers calculated per hectare of trees based on the history of production in prior years. In 2001 the state organization ENESA-Agroseguro offered the possibility of insuring the olive harvest, including the case of drought. Our cooperative, together with ACTEL, is one of the most active in extending the reach of this measure; 95% of our members purchase the insurance. The cooperative’s statutes were adapted to the Catalan government’s Cooperative Act in 2006. Women became members of the Governing Board for the first time in 2003.

The future

 The cooperative has evolved since its creation and has undergone major changes. It went from providing hay for its members’ mules and seed potatoes for their fields to creating all the sections we have mentioned. The coming construction of the Segarra-Garrigues canal and the L’Albagés dam will entail the loss of some of the property now part of the cooperative and the possibility of support irrigation for agricultural operations, nearly all of which are olive plantations. The changes in the lives of farmers and our members have spurred the substantial development of the cooperative, thanks to the efforts of all the men and women who believe in the strength of the cooperative movement as a tool to face the future optimistically. The challenge for our cooperative is the same as for farmers: making a decent living from our work, from the money we earn by selling the products we grow and process with modern methods and mechanization, expanding the market by using new technologies, caring for the environment, rational use of irrigation water, etc. And all of this without forgetting what our predecessors taught us — that the main tool for overcoming difficulties and building the future is love of the land and our work, the pleasure of getting up in the morning and feeling that our working environment is all the land we can see, that our hands work the miracle of giving life to nature, that our sweat contributes to providing healthy food for people, that our job keeps the country clean and alive, because without farmers Earth would be a sterile place and hunger would be universal. As members of a cooperative, our strength and enthusiasm are in working together in this endeavor, so that our diversity of operations, characters and opinions gives us the strength we need to build an economically and socially prosperous future together.

Presidents

1919-1921 Enric Bar Cuadrat

1921-1924 Francesc Tost Cuadrat

1924-1928 Hosep Rey Rey

1928-1930 Ramon Iglesisas Sardà

1930-1931 Francesc Tost i Cuadrat

1931-1932 Miquel Mor Pujol

1932-1934 Rossend Iglesisas Sardà

1934-1936 Ramon Iglesas Ramon

1936-1938 Josep Solé Cuadrat

1938-1938 Ramon Iglesias Ramon

1939-1943 Josep Oriol Cuadrat

1943-1947 Agripí Oriol Monné

1947-1948 Miquel Oriol Donés

1948-1951 Ramon Seró Oriol (Jaumesa)

1951-1951 Josep Seró Serra

1951-1961 Manel Ramon Rius

1961-1963 Josep Seró Serra

1963-1965 Josep Donés Seró

1965-1966 Alfons Mor Piñol

1966-1967 Josep Seró Serra

1967-1968 Josep Donés Seró

1968-1978 Josep Anton Seró Iglesias

1978-1980 Josep Iglesas Solé

1980-1984 Ramon Ramon Seró

1984-1991 Emili Roigé Iglesias

1991-1994 Josep Iglesias Solé

1994-2003 Emili Roigé Iglesias

2003-2009 Fidel Bardají Mor

2009-2013 Josep Marcel Alentà Pelegrí

2013-2017 Josep Maria Nogue Güell

Current president: Josep Marcel Alentà Pelegrí

Facilities

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