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Farmers have little of the Bioboom

It is an appeal to the good Conscience is: "of Course. Right. Good.". So the advertising slogan goes Coop, with the big distributors promoting its Naturaplan products. The message: anyone Who buys a apples in organic farming, is doing the Right thing, for sustainability, for the benefit of all – the natural, health, organic farmers.

The reality is less romantic. It is mainly the large distribution, the profit from the business. Together, Migros and Coop are making a market: sell around 80 percent of all organic products in Switzerland. The sales of Coop increased last year to over 1.7 billion Swiss francs – an increase of almost 20 percent year-on-year. With organic good money.

The two major distributors are at the top of the value chain. They can dictate the prices, provide guidelines and determine the supplier. Then, the intermediary, the link between farmers and major distributors follows. At the bottom of the hierarchy: the organic farmers and organic farmers. For many of them, the device of the Bioboom to fight for Survival.

Rapid price decay

vegetable grower Roland Thaler (Name changed) planted on his farm in the Zurich wine country for 18 years organic Vegetables. Approximately 25 hectares of onions, turnips or potatoes – products that enter later in the shelves of Migros and Coop sprout. "The business is brutally hard," says Thaler. Wholesalers and between retailers, would press the selling price.

The collapse in the Price, it can be demonstrated on the example of the sweet potato. Two years ago, the producers per Kilo have yet to receive 5 francs. Thereafter, the price dropped to 4.50 francs, and, since last September, the farmers still get 3.20 Swiss francs. So you need to cover all the costs: seeds, bio-fertilisers, machinery and labour costs. Thaler speaks of a zero-sum game.

The unequal distribution is statistically proven. The index of producer prices of agricultural products is decreased by two percent, while the consumer prices for fresh vegetables increased by almost five percent. This means that the farmer earned on average less, while the margins of Migros and Coop to increase. According to the farmers, the wholesalers do not pass on the price advantage to the customer, but stuck it in his pocket.

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The Zurich farmers ' Association (CUA) has analysed the distribution of profits to producers and wholesalers for various products. The result for farmers is sobering. In the case of the potato, the profit of the wholesale distributor was five times higher than that of the producers. In the case of eggs earned Migros and Coop 9 Times, in the case of Apples, the 28-Times. "This is unfair. It is the farmers who produce the added value of local food," said CUA managing Director, Ferdi Hodel. "The top of the recycling chain take so much out of it as possible. The farmers as producers, the only remaining recipient." The farmers would have to bear the full risk for production of any crop failures, says Hodel. The wholesale distributor gets the product ready to use, just need to market it yet.

The wholesale distributor to deny that you make with organic Vegetables the big money. "We do not more than with conventional earn of organic products," said Coop. Migros recalls its cooperative origin: "We are not striving to maximize profit. We do not pay dividends to shareholders or bonuses to managers."

Bauer Thaler is under pressure. Last year's hot summer caused high additional costs. 1500 francs he paid for water, to which he moved from the fire hydrant – per hectare. "Had my wife not work outside of the yard, we would not come through," he says. The dependence on the wholesale distributor is wholesale, other sales channels are not able to replace the business. "Either you play or you go," says Thaler.

Antitrust sensitive

a few months Ago, the situation has deteriorated again. The reason a company is in-between trade. Earlier the farmers had to bring several intermediary for the election to the vegetables in the Coop or the Migros to. Larger farms were able to deliver directly. Today, only two intermediaries are the farmers: the Rathgeb Biolog AG and the Terra Viva AG. The two companies have, however, formed last year a joint consortium, the Alliance Suisse Bio AG. The farmers were informed with a Letter: "Through this company, we will jointly and exclusively with the customer Coop Switzerland far with organic Vegetables and potatoes supply." Some farmers assume that it now comes regularly to price-fixing, and suspect the cartel-like States. Rahel Bonny of the Alliance Suisse Bio denies the allegations and is surprised: "Our farmers have not complained until now," says the business head.

The Swiss Competition Commission (Comco) announces, on request, that the concentration has not been reported. He must necessarily not. According to the antitrust law, the threshold for a notification at 500 million Swiss francs. Abroad, these values are generally set much lower. Terra Viva and Rathgeb not want to disclose their transactions to the TA. Bonny reveals only so much: "We are far below that."

The wholesale distributor receives the finished product and needs to market just yet.

For antitrust law Professor Patrick Kraus, head of the Zurich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW) there needs to be more clarification of the market situation. "It would have to be tested, what marketing alternatives are available to the organic farmer are still available," says the former Deputy Director of the competition Commission. The dominant position of Migros and Coop Krauskopf evaluated critically. "An abuse would be if the producers of organic products, inappropriate cost imposed on prices or terms and conditions." Also, exclusive contracts, as in the case of the Alliance Suisse Bio AG Coop were antitrust law is problematic.

By your market, the wholesale distributor for the farmers have become indispensable. With farm shops or online platforms, only a small part of the vegetables can be sold. Devastating, if Migros or Coop to withdraw the order. This happens in the case of vegetables Imhof from Hüttikon last year. 54 employees had to be dismissed because of a Migros-lost order. The company filed for bankruptcy and had to reposition.

"Only the crumbs"

something Similar happened to Ernst Schibli from Otelfingen. The farmer and former SVP politicians had to be sacked in 2011, seven employees and re-align. Migros had pulled back without notice, after 55 years of cooperation. Schibli, Migros, announced that he would deliver in the future, no more vegetables. The dependence on the wholesale distributor is he has become too big. Today, Schibli draws a ernüchtertes conclusion: "The farmer has the whole Büez, but only gets the crumbs. The office table of the big corporations have been raking in the big profits."

The wholesalers do not want to assess the antitrust Situation. Migros, however, emphasizes the advantage of focusing on an intermediary: "In this way, we can work more efficiently, reduce costs, and as a result, products cheaper offer." Bauer Thaler has meanwhile, to strict specifications. The acceptance of the contract with Rathgeb contains quality criteria for the organic Vegetables. The quality of the shape: What does not fit in the box, ends up in the garbage.

His business is like a lottery, says Thaler. In the spring he ordered seed potatoes to the value of 20'000 Swiss francs. The contract between the dealer Rathgeb he has already – without even knowing how much he ultimately gets for it. The kilo price will only be determined in the autumn, when the extent of the harvest is known. A part of the harvest is, neither wholesalers nor the vendor, but the farmers. In other sectors of the economy will invest only when the risk was covered, says Thaler. Not so in the agricultural sector: "What I'm doing here is crazy, highly speculative."

On request, neither Migros nor Coop ready to show to shrink the margin in favour of the producers.

(Tages-Anzeiger)

Created: 16.05.2019, 22:40 PM

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